New Robot-Assisted Surgical Method for Treating Thyroid Cancer

A team of surgeons at Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea has successfully treated 200 consecutive patients with thyroid cancer using a novel robot-assisted endoscopic technique. The minimally invasive procedure, which has several technical and cosmetic advantages not offered by the traditional open operation, is described in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

More than 37,000 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. Surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid gland is the most common treatment for thyroid cancer and typically involves a three to five-inch incision across the front of the neck. Although robot-assisted endoscopic operations have been adopted for the surgical treatment of other forms of cancer, the implementation of these techniques has been delayed in the areas of head and neck surgery due to the narrow, deep anatomical space and delicate nerves and blood vessels in these areas.

Robotic technology aids surgeons by providing a three-dimensional view and enhanced magnification of the anatomy, along with the ability to filter unintentional movements of human hands, enabling a safer and easier operation than preserves structures surrounding the target organ.

During a 10-month period, a surgical team operated on 200 patients with thyroid cancer through the use of robot-assisted endoscopic thyroidectomy using a novel transaxillary approach. All patients had well-differentiated, local thyroid tumors of at least two centimeters. Utilizing the da Vinci Surgical System, a surgeon removed all or part of the thyroid gland by making an incision under the patient’s right arm, eliminating the need for a neck incision.

 Woong Youn Chung, M.D., PhD, of Yonsei University College of Medicine, claims, “The innovative robot-assisted technique for thyroid surgery represents an exciting new treatment option for patients with thyroid cancer. Not only does it offer good clinical outcomes, but it also spares patients from the large, visible scar that results from traditional open surgery.”


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