Using robotic arms, surgeons can now remove the thyroid gland through an incision in the axilla, or armpit, thereby avoiding the large scar on the front of the neck caused by traditional thyroid surgery. The procedure offers no other benefits over the traditional approach developed a century ago by Emil Theodor Kocher, MD, according to head and neck surgeons who perform the robotic surgery. In fact, it takes longer to recover from the robotic surgery, they say, with some patients complaining of chest numbness for months afterwards.
Explore this issue:April 2010
So why is this procedure, which has been performed about 125 times in the U.S., according to the small group of surgeons who have embraced it, and approximately 1,500 to 2,000 times worldwide, gaining in popularity? Head and neck surgeons interviewed by ENT Today touted the procedure’s precision and application to other head and neck operations.
F. Christopher Holsinger, MD, FACS, associate professor of head and neck surgery at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said robotic surgery may lead to better techniques for accessing other difficult-to-reach locations in the neck, head and other confined areas.