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October 13, 2014

UVA neurosurgeon leads partnership for safer high-tech surgery

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A University of Virginia Health System physician is playing a key role in advancing the safety and quality of advanced brain surgery.

In an initiative coordinated by UVA neurological surgeon Jason Sheehan, MD, PhD, FACS, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) are developing a first-of-its-kind patient registry in order to establish national benchmarks for stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS).

SRS uses precise, intensely focused radiation beams to target cancerous cells without damaging healthy tissue. UVA was one of the first health systems in the country to use a Gamma Knife, which is considered the most-advanced form of SRS.

Using de-identified patient data as building blocks, the new registry will soon provide information that clinicians, patients, and caregivers can use when considering what course of SRS treatment to pursue. Research culled from the initiative will lead to better outcomes, more informed decision making, and lower cost-of-care for patients.

“Health care consumers will be the recipients of a higher quality and safer approach to stereotactic radiosurgery,” said Sheehan, the Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor and vice chair of the neurosurgery department at UVA. “We recognize the need to work together to improve clinical outcomes and cost effectiveness in a high-technology approach like stereotactic radiosurgery. This registry is a major step towards these goals.”

ASTRO and the AANS, along with its affiliate Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation (NREF), are partnering with the medical technology company Brainlab in developing the registry. A grant of more than $4 million is helping to fund the project.

A Leader in SRS

UVA’s capabilities draw patients from across the world for Gamma Knife treatment, and UVA neurosurgeons have treated more than 10,000 people using Gamma Knife since 1989.

In 2010, UVA was the first medical center in the U.S. to use Gamma Knife Extend tm , which allows neurosurgeons to treat cancers of the brain that were previously considered untreatable.

Looking Ahead to Safer Surgery

The patient registry will draw data from 30 high-volume surgery sites throughout the U.S. and produce information from thousands of patients. In a move intended to spur additional, wide-ranging research into SRS outcomes, the neurosurgery organizations plan to make the anonymized data available to the public.

The information drawn from this new trove of data is expected to ultimately lead to safer surgeries and refined SRS techniques, among other benefits.

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