With six generations and over a million patients treated, Leksell Gamma Knife® has proven to be a continuous innovation and the undisputable gold standard in intracranial radiosurgery.
The first Leksell Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery procedure in a clinical setting was to treat a patient's pituitary adenoma at Sophiahemmet Hospital in Stockholm on January 27, 1968. By 2018 — Gamma Knife® radiosurgery's 50th year — 1.1 million people around the world have received the therapy. Today, 330 clinical Gamma Knife units across 54 countries treat a combined 80,000 new patients each year.
Professor Lars Leksell, who believed there must be a gentler, more targeted alternative to open surgery to treat many intracranial indications is the inventor of Leksell Gamma Knife and founder of Elekta. He worked tirelessly to develop a solution guided by his philosophy:
"Tools used by the surgeon must be adapted to the task and where the human brain is concerned, they cannot be too refined."
We thank Prof. Leksell for his life-changing dedication to finding better ways to treat intracranial disorders, and we thank all the healthcare professionals who have been part of this clinical journey to improve patients' lives.
“As remarkable as Gamma Knife's first 50 years has been, the next half-century has the potential to transcend anything we can presently conceive of for this modality, allowing far greater numbers of patients to have access to this gentle and clinically-proven treatment method.”
Dan Leksell reflects on the life and career of his father, Lars Leksell, creator of Leksell Gamma Knife celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
For those of us who have lost parents, there may be comfort in the memories of a life well lived and the knowledge that their legacy continues on in the lives they touched. I am truly fortunate to know that my father, Lars Leksell, touched the lives of 1.1 million people to date through Leksell Gamma Knife, the stereotactic radiosurgery system that transformed the treatment of brain disorders.
While I join with Elekta – the company my father founded in 1972 to commercialize stereotactic and radiosurgery instruments – in celebrating this important scientific milestone, it also is a time for me to reflect on Lars Leksell as a great innovator, and, just as important, as my father.
Through his devotion to his work and his frequent at-home tinkering with prototypes of his instrument, my father instilled in me at an early age a passion for applying stereotaxy – the use of three-dimensional coordinates (x, y, z) to precisely map anatomical structures that cannot be visualized directly – to improve the treatment of brain disease. Combining stereotactic methods with radiation therapy allowed precise and minimally targeting of brain tissue. The marriage of these two would utterly transform the treatment of brain disorders.
My interest in his invention, and on the physics principles behind it, was a key driver for me becoming a physician. He was curious about my work, often visiting me in lab as I worked on my thesis to explore new findings, listen to my hypotheses and offer ideas of his own.
I am fortunate again that in the years since my father's death, I have had many opportunities to continue my father's legacy, working to innovate new approaches to stereotactic radiosurgery and pursuing his dedication to improving the care of patients with brain disorders.
Although my father has been gone for 30 years, I am privileged to have powerful and compelling reminders of the good he did with his time on earth, and inspired to continue the work he started. While he would have been pleased to reach the important milestone of one million patients treated, I know he would have continued his approach to improving care – one patient at a time.
This year will mark 50 years of Gamma Knife radiosurgery, a testament not only to the power of Professor Leksell's original invention, but also to his commitment to the ongoing refinement and innovation of the Gamma Knife platform to improve patient care and outcomes.
"Until I was 15 years old, when my mother died, life with my father was easy. Except for a few summer weekends in the countryside, we had very little interaction. However, one thing he managed to do during those early years was to infect me with his interest in stereotaxy, in the instrument, and, later on, in radiosurgery, among many other things. He often brought home the instrument in the evening to tinker with and make improvements."
In Wavelength, our customer magazine, Dan Leksell reflects on the life and times of his father, Professor Lars Leksell, creator of Leksell Gamma Knife.
Early ideas sketched onto napkins by Lars Leksell
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