Newport News, Va. – Riverside Regional Medical Center and the University of Virginia Health System have initiated an affiliation which could bring some of the world’s most advanced technology to the Peninsula as well as new capabilities for gynecological cancer surgery for area patients.

The Charlottesville-based University of Virginia Health System and Riverside are jointly preparing a Certificate of Need application to bring the technologies of gamma knife surgery to Riverside Regional Medical Center’s campus. These plans complement Riverside’s redesign construction project that began in 2001.

The University of Virginia Medical Center is one of 13 National Cancer Institute-designated clinical cancer centers.

The Gamma Knife technology will be a part of a planned sterotactic head and body radiosurgery facility which would be jointly owned by Riverside and University of Virginia Medical Center.

If approved by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, the new technology will enable many patients to have less-invasive surgery with less anesthesia, avoiding long hospital stays and the possible complications from difficult surgical procedures.

Considered to be one of the most advanced neurosurgical tools available, the Gamma Knife allows a surgeon to perform brain surgery without a scapel or without actually entering the skull. This way there is less damage to the brain and more function can be preserved.

Gamma KnifeThis Gamma Knife approach to less-invasive surgery uses 201 highly focused beams of Cobalt 60 to produce biological effects on tissues inside the skull. The treatment is typically done in a single sitting and therefore has the benefit of much shorter hospital stays and side effects.

The University of Virginia Health System is one of the leading international authorities on radiosurgery. When U. Va. obtained its first Gamma Knife, it was the fifth in the world and the second in the United States. Over 800 patients from 45 countries have been treated at U.Va’s gamma knife unit. There are now over 180 units around the world. 

In addition to the Gamma Knife, the joint venture Radiosurgery Center will include the Extracranial technology for use on surgical sites other than the head and neck, such as the spine, the base of the skull, and potentially liver, neck, pancreas and lung cancers. 

The Medical Director of the new Center will be Dr. Ladislau Steiner, Alumni Professor of Neurosurgery and Radiology at the University of Virginia. Dr. Steiner was awarded the 2003 Gold Medal of Honor from the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies for lifetime contributions to neurosurgery practice and teaching and is a widely recognized pioneer of radiosurgery applications. He was involved in the development of the Gamma Knife.

Dr. James E. Lesnick, Hampton Roads Neurosurgery and Spine Center, will be the Associate Medical Director.

Dr. Lesnick notes that “the latest research shows an ever expanding application for the use of the Gamma Knife. It allows us to treat tumors of the brain that were previously untreatable and one day, it may replace conventional surgery with a modality that can be equal or greater in effectiveness.”

In addition, the University of Virginia Gynecology Oncology team will be performing specialized gynecological cancer surgery at Riverside on a regular basis beginning in June. Dr. William P. Irvin will work with local surgeons in surgical treatment of gynecological cancer. Dr. Irvin is a member of one of the nation’s most respected clinical research teams and is currently working on a promising new vaccine to extend remission of ovarian cancer.

The University of Virginia Medical Center has been recognized by US News and World Report, Best Doctors in America and other organizations as one of the finest medical institutions in the country. The School of Medicine there is making discoveries resulting in new and better therapies, especially in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular disease, neuro-degenerative disease and vaccine development.

Riverside President Richard J. Pearce sees these initiatives as part of a growing affiliation with the University of Virginia Medical Center.

“There is no better clinical partner than the distinguished physicians at U.Va. We view this as the beginning of a growing and important relationship which will have dramatic and long term benefits for the citizens of Eastern Virginia,” Pearce said.

Published: June 4, 2004