NHS - Gamma Knife

Sheffield Centre History

Treating patients since 1985

The National Centre for Stereotactic Radiosurgery in Sheffield opened for patient treatment in 1985. The work for installation began quite some time before this in 1983. The pictures on the right side show the construction of the treatment suite which houses the unit. Members of the team thoroughly tested the machine in Geneva prior to the delivery to site in 1984.

Mr David Forster was responsible for the campaign to establish a Gamma Knife centre in Britain. He believed that there was a need for stereotactic radiosurgery delivered via the Gamma Knife after working for a number of years with the inventor of the Gamma Knife, Professor Lars Leksell.

The unit was funded by the Department of Health as a five year research project and commenced to treat patients in September 1985 treating only one patient per week.

The unit was the third to go into clinical use in the world and remained the only Gamma Knife in the UK until 1998.

From 1985 on, as experience and confidence grew, patient numbers increased to around three patients per week. Vascular malformations account for the majority of the early cases treated with benign tumours making up the remainder.

In 1990 the service was recognised by the Department of Health as a supra-regional speciality, once the efficacy of the treatment had been proven. In 1991 the radioactive cobalt sources in the unit were changed and, along with increases in staffing levels, the number of patients treated rose to two patients per day.

Construction of the treatment suite

Mr Andras Kemeny joined the team at this time making stereotactic radiosurgery using the Gamma Knife one of his specialities.

Early in 1992 a greater number of tumours began to be treated and the centre entered into a clinical trial for the treatment of ocular melanomas, in conjunction with Professor Ian Rennie, head of Ophthalmology at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

The trial started with the intent that only 10 patients would be treated, at the present time 246 of these rare tumours have been treated to date.

In 1993, with the introduction of Elekta's sophisticated planning software Leksell GammaPlan, and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), the production of treatment plans improved both in accuracy and conformality. The physics team have played an active role in the developments and testing of this software.

Along side Computer Aided Tomography (CT) and Angiography the introduction of MRI has vastly improved localisation methods for tumours and combined with angiography assists in the localisation of vascular abnormalities.

The planning system has constantly been upgraded and the centre currently is using the most up to date version of Leksell GammaPlan which allows for very accurate and complex planning methods.

The range of  indications treated by the Gamma Knife has increased see Indications Treated and has moved into the treatment of some functional disorders i.e.  Trigeminal Neuralgia and Epilepsy


Sheffield  - The World's First   Leksell GammaKnife 'Esprit'


  February 2023 saw the Clincal start for the latest model of Gammaknife,..... the Leksell Gammaknife 'ESPRIT'.  Proud once again to be at the forefront of world leading treatments for serious brain conditions. The new Gammaknife continues the Sheffield story of Stereotactic Radiosurgery.    

             First Gamma Knife Esprit patient resumes life as usual only days after brain surgery - Elekta