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Tuesday, June 01, 2010 - Otolaryngology performing new transoral robotic surgery

Continuing to advance robotic surgery as a minimally invasive treatment option, the VCU Medical Center is now performing transoral robotic surgery.

This new treatment option is for patients with cancers involving the tonsil, base of the tongue, the pharynx and the larynx. VCU is one of only a handful of medical centers in the country, and the first in the region, to use this technique.

Approximately 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancers each year. Tumors are often treated by a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. In many cases, surgery offers the best chance of cure; however conventional surgery may require a large incision involving splitting the lip and/or the mandible to gain access to the tumor. This often results not only in a cosmetic deformity, but can result in significant speech and swallowing problems.

“The main benefit of robotic surgery to treat oral cancers is the ability to address a tumor directly at the site, limiting tissue damage,” said Dr. Nadir Ahmad, surgeon in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery. “The conventional method requires surgery through the neck, lip or jaw to access the tumor site. With the da Vinci Robotic System, we can use a minimally invasive technique through the mouth with superior magnification, access and ability to get to an area without large and disfiguring incisions.”

The robot’s precise wrist-like action allows surgeons the freedom of movement in tight spaces. It provides access to the small and difficult-to-reach areas of the mouth and throat. Binocular cameras project a three-dimensional image to the surgeon, who guides the surgery from a command console in the operating room.

“Patients treated with the transoral robotic surgery will generally have shorter hospital stays and will be able to leave within days after surgery, compared to a week or more in the hospital after conventional surgery,” said Ahmad. “Patients will more likely be able to swallow within days following the robotic surgery. It often takes patients months after conventional surgery to regain the ability to swallow, and sometimes they are dependent on a feeding tube long-term.”

Visit www.vcu.edu/ent or call 804-828-3965 for more information.

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