The first North American 201 cobalt-60 source Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) device was introduced at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 1987. The introduction of this innovative and largely untested surgical procedure prompted the desire to study patient outcomes and evaluate the effectiveness of this technique. The parallel advances in computer software and database technology led to the development of a registry to track patient outcomes at this center. The purpose of this study was to describe the registry's evolution and to evaluate its usefulness.
A team was created to develop a software database and tracking system to organize and retain information on the usage of GKS. All patients undergoing GKS were systematically entered into this database by a clinician familiar with the technology and the clinical indications. Information included patient demographics and diagnosis as well as the anatomical site of the target and details of the procedure.
There are currently 11,738 patients in the database, which began to be used in August 1987. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has pioneered the evaluation and publication of the GKS technique and outcomes. Data derived from this computer database have facilitated the publication of more than 400 peer-reviewed manuscripts, more than 200 book chapters, 8 books, and more than 300 published abstracts and scientific presentations. The use of GKS has become a well-established surgical technique that has been performed more than 700,000 times around the world.
The development of a patient registry to track and analyze the use of GKS has given investigators the ability to study patient procedures and outcomes. The future of clinical medical research will rely on the ability of clinical centers to store and to share information.