Sylvester Surgeons Perform First Removal of Throat Cancer in South Florida Using Surgical Robot

Surgeons from the Department of Otolaryngology at UHealth – the University of Miami Health System have performed the first removal of throat cancer in South Florida using a surgical robot. The operation was performed March 22nd at the University of Miami Hospital by Francisco Civantos, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology and member of the Head and Neck Cancer Site Disease Group at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Giovana Thomas, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology and member of the Head and Neck Cancer Site Disease Group at Sylvester. They were accompanied by Raymond J. Leveillee, M.D., professor of urology, who is an experienced urologic robotic surgeon.

Traditional surgery for various head and neck cancers requires large incisions – extending from the lip, across the chin and to the neck before entering the mouth or throat. Numerous times surgeons need to cut through the lower jaw and move aside vital nerves to gain access to the back of the mouth and throat. By using the da Vinci® Surgical System, surgeons insert the slender instruments into the mouth to reach the base of the tongue, tonsils, and throat. “As a surgeon,” says Civantos, “using a surgical robot allows for greater precision and dexterity to remove cancerous tumors from tight spaces in the mouth and throat.”

The University of Miami Hospital’s da Vinci® System consists of robotic arms that replicate a surgeon’s motions. Throughout a robot-assisted surgery, patients are positioned as they would be during laparoscopic surgery, with surgical team members surrounding them, while the surgeon is located at a console a few feet away. Supporting surgical team members mount the correct instruments, and supervise the laparoscopic arms and tools being used.

The instruments are designed with seven degrees of motion that imitate the agility of the human wrist. Each instrument has a specific surgical task such as clamping, and suturing. Even though the surgeon is not physically in contact with the patient, the da Vinci® control console permits the surgeon to see the surgical field in superior detail as a result of the three-dimensional image transmitted from the laparoscopic cameras.

Civantos and Thomas say the benefits for patients with head and neck cancers are “dramatic” because the surgeries can be done endoscopically. Thomas says “because there are no external incisions, it offers faster recovery time and a reduced risk of infection or other complications for the patient.” This procedure represents another stepping stone in the development of minimally invasive endoscopic procedures for treatment of head and neck cancer at UHealth.

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