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Robotic surgery (da Vinci® Surgical System)

Robotic surgery (da Vinci Surgical System) for head and neck cancer

The da Vinci System allows your surgeon to perform transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for head and neck surgery. Compared with traditional open surgery, TORS leaves no scars and prevents breathing and swallowing difficulty that normally occur after surgery.

Additional potential benefits for many head and neck cancer patients include:

  • Fewer complications
  • Less blood loss
  • Minimal need for tracheotomy (breathing tube)
  • Minimal need for chemoradiation, a combination treatment of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Shorter hospital stay

What is the da Vinci® Surgical System?

The da Vinci® Surgical System offers a minimally invasive alternative to both open surgery and laparoscopy. Because it requires only a few tiny incisions and offers greater vision, precision and control for the surgeon, patients often can recover sooner, move on to additional treatments if needed and get back to daily life more quickly. 

Potential benefits of the da Vinci system for patients include:

  • Reduced pain
  • Lower risk of infection or complications
  • Less blood loss (fewer transfusions)
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Less scarring
  • Faster return to normal activities (e.g., sexual function, urinary continence)

How it works

In traditional minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon operates while standing, using hand-held instruments that cannot bend or rotate. The surgeon must look up and away to a nearby standard 2D video monitor to see an image of the target anatomy.

With the da Vinci System’s ergonomic design, the surgeon is able to operate from a comfortable, seated position at a console, with eyes and hands in line with the instruments, and a magnified, high-definition 3D view of the target anatomy.

“The addition of robotic surgery and the da Vinci Surgical System offers patients leading-edge, individualized options that are both minimally invasive and supportive of quality of life,” says Dr. Charles Komen Brown, Surgical Oncologist at Midwestern Regional Medical Center. “With this innovative technology, surgeons gain more vision, precision and control while making smaller, less invasive incisions.”

Seated comfortably at an ergonomically-designed console, the surgeon first makes a few tiny incisions to introduce miniaturized instruments and a high-definition camera inside the patient. The camera allows the surgeon to view a highly magnified, high-resolution 3D image of the surgical site.

With eyes and hands in line with the instruments, the surgeon uses controls below the viewer to move the instrument arms and camera. The system then translates, in real time, the surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements into precise movements of the instruments inside the patient.

Throughout the procedure, the surgeon controls every surgical maneuver. The System cannot be programmed or act in any way without the surgeon’s input.

The da Vinci System is most commonly used for urologic and gynecologic surgical procedures. Patients with previous radiation treatment, surgery or physical mobility issues may not be candidates for da Vinci.

Applications of da Vinci

Firefly™ Fluorescence Imaging: This imaging system allows your surgeon to identify vessels and tissue that otherwise couldn’t be seen by the human eye. Firefly combines a special video camera and a dye that binds to proteins to make those vessels and tissue visible during minimally invasive surgical procedures using da Vinci. The system also gives your surgeon the ability to detect sentinel lymph nodes, where the cancer is most likely to spread from a primary tumor first.

Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS): This type of minimally invasive surgery is specifically designed for patients with head and neck cancer. During TORS procedures, your surgeon controls robotic instruments that have been inserted through your mouth. No incisions are needed. In contrast, traditional open surgery requires long incisions through the throat and jaw, which often leave patients with visible scars, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and a lengthy recovery.

EndoWrist® Stapler: Modeled after the human hand, this robotic stapler is used to help remove the malignant portion of the colon during surgery. Using the EndoWrist Stapler, your surgeon can reach areas of the body that are normally extremely hard to access with conventional staplers used in minimally invasive procedures. EndoWrist Instruments are designed to provide your surgeon with natural dexterity and a full range of motion for precision during minimally invasive surgery.

da Vinci® Surgical System medical animation