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Robotic-assisted Surgery Shows Promise for Thyroid Cancer Patients

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Using a novel robot-assisted endoscopic surgery technique, a team of surgeons at Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea has successfully treated 200 consecutive thyroid cancer patients.

The minimally invasive operation offers several technical and cosmetic benefits that traditional open surgery does not offer, and is detailed in the August 2009 issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

In the United States, more than 37,000 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Thyroid cancer occurs in the cells of the thyroid — a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam's apple. Your thyroid produces hormones that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. Typically, thyroid cancer requires removal of all or part of the thyroid gland through a three-to-five-inch incision across the front of the neck.

“This innovative robotic-assisted technique for thyroid surgery represents an exciting new treatment option,” said Woong Youn Chung, MD, PHD at Yonsel University College of Medicine. “It not only offers good clinical outcomes, but it eliminates the large, visible scarring that results from traditional open surgery.”

For this 10-month study, 200 patients, age 40-49 with well-differentiated, local thyroid tumors of at least two centimeters, underwent robotic-assisted thyroid surgery. The surgical team removed all or part of the thyroid gland by making an incision under the patients’ right arm, eliminating the need for the traditional neck scar.

Of the 45 patients who underwent total thyroid gland removal, 38 also received Radioactive Iodine (RAI) therapy four to six weeks after surgery. No tumor recurrence was observed by neck ultrasonography at 10 and 18 months postoperatively, and no patient was found to have abnormal radiation uptake.

Robotic-assisted endoscopic surgeries are not new to various types of cancer treatment, including endometrial cancer, but the medical community has been slow to adopt these techniques in head and neck surgery due to the narrow, deep anatomical space and delicate nerves and vessels located in these areas.

The advantages of robotic-assisted surgery are surgeons are provided with a three-dimensional view and enhanced magnification of the patient’s anatomy, as well as the ability to filter the unintentional movements of human hands, which enables safe and easier access to the target organ without damage to surrounding tissues and organs.

This study builds on previous study findings indicating patients are enthusiastic about less invasive surgery options. A study published in the August issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, for instance, showed endometrial cancer patients benefited from robotic-assisted surgery because surgery times were shortened and blood loss was minimal. Patients typically experienced shorten hospital stays, decreased recovery times and fewer complications.

Azsunshinegirl, aka Lynette Summerill, is an award-winning journalist who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues, she writes a blog, Nonsmoking Nation, which follows global tobacco news and events.

Add a Comment2 Comments

Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Yes, Anon, this technique is available from multiple providers in the US.

February 16, 2010 - 5:13pm
EmpowHER Guest

This technique is available in the United States as well.

February 13, 2010 - 2:57pm
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