Until recently, people with complex head and neck disorders had minimal options for surgical treatment. Traditional approaches often have left patients with visible scars, difficulty breathing or swallowing following surgery, and a lengthy recovery.
At the UPMC Center for Robotic Head and Neck Surgery, surgeons are now able to treat these complex disorders using minimally invasive robotic surgery.
Compared to other head and neck surgical approaches, minimally invasive robotic surgery can:
The robotic system used at the Center for Robotic Head and Neck Surgery features:
Similar to other minimally invasive procedures, the robotic system requires only minor incisions instead of large ones commonly used in traditional surgery.
Our center is part of the UPMC Department of Otolaryngology, a world leader in the field of ear, nose, and throat clinical care and research.
Dedicated to the care of people with noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) diseases of the head and neck, we provide a multidisciplinary approach to afford the best minimally invasive surgical techniques.
The center is a pioneer in performing robotic head and neck surgery in western Pennsylvania and the tristate (Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia) area, and is one of the highest volume centers in the country.
UPMC has the largest number of robotic surgery systems and the largest number of dual-console robotic systems in North America. This allows a team of surgeons to operate simultaneously, and foster a truly comprehensive and collaborative approach to surgical care, keeping UPMC at the forefront of robotic surgery.
The center is also actively engaged in collaborating with the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University to develop and optimize cutting-edge robotic technologies.
The robotic system offers surgeons improved visualization and greater dexterity, allowing them to operate in hard-to-reach areas of the body.
Because the device’s arms bend and have a range of motion similar to the human wrist, surgeons are able to maneuver instruments more easily than in traditional minimally invasive procedures. This helps operate more easily in the small spaces of the mouth and throat.
Having better access to hard-to-reach areas makes it possible for surgeons to perform delicate and complex operations that may be difficult or impossible with other methods.
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Many people, both adults and children, can benefit from robotic head and neck surgery, including those with:
Robotic-assisted head and neck surgery can have many advantages over traditional surgery, including:
People with early-stage cancers of the base of the tongue and tonsil can often be treated with robotic surgery and therefore reduce the amount of radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Similarly, people with thyroid nodules can have thyroid surgery without a scar in the neck, which is particularly attractive for younger patients.
Glenda Wilson was a healthy 61-year-old woman who did all the right things—didn’t smoke, didn’t drink alcohol, and stayed busy running a thriving antique business. While vacationing with her husband in Florida, Glenda was getting ready to go out to the pool and noticed that her neck felt swollen. She turned to her husband to see if he noticed anything odd. He immediately noticed the swelling, and that’s when her life changed forever.
That day marked the beginning of a three-year ordeal that involved being diagnosed with myeloma and nephritis, and getting a bone marrow transplant. During that time, she also developed a mass in the back of her throat. Her doctors weren’t sure if the lump was related to her previous conditions. Imaging studies showed what was potentially a cancerous tumor. However, the tumor was not cancerous, but because of its location at the base of her tongue, it had to be removed.
Over a span of three years, Glenda underwent three unsuccessful surgeries to remove the tumor. Using traditional surgical techniques, the surgeons were unable to reach the mass because it was so far down her throat. Their instruments simply couldn’t reach it. Finally, her doctor referred Glenda to the UPMC Eye and Ear Institute where she met with Dr. Umamaheswar Duvvuri.
Dr. Duvvuri is a specialist in using Trans Oral Robotic Surgery (TORS). This sophisticated robotic platform allows surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery for complex procedures similar to the one needed for Glenda’s tumor. During TORS, the surgeon moves the arms of the robot while viewing a magnified, high-resolution, 3D image of the surgical site. This type of surgery makes a smaller incision, resulting in minimal loss of blood, quicker recovery time, a shorter hospital stay, and less pain than traditional surgery.
Where prior surgeries caused bruising on her face and cuts on her tongue, the TORS surgery left no bleeding or scarring. The precision of the TORS surgery allowed Dr. Duvvuri to successfully remove the entire tumor.
Glenda was able to go home the day after surgery. “The only reason they had me stay overnight was because I had to drive two hours to get home,” said Glenda, who lives in Farmington, PA.
She had some soreness after the surgery, but her recovery went well. After a six-month follow-up visit to Dr. Duvvuri, he said she didn’t need to make another appointment because she was in the clear. That came as a great relief to Glenda. She continues to work at her antiques business, though she puts in fewer hours due to some fatigue from the bone marrow transplant. Through it all, she maintains a positive attitude, and is grateful to the doctors who were able to remove her tumor with such minimal side effects.
“I’m so glad that everything worked out so well,” said Glenda. “I’m back to working at my business, and don’t have any signs or symptoms of the tumor. It’s wonderful.”
Glenda's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.
The Center for Robotic Head and Neck Surgery has experienced and dedicated experts in robotic treatments for head and neck disorders. Learn more about our experts.
UPMC Center for Robotic Head and Neck SurgeryEye & Ear Institute200 Lothrop St. Third floorPittsburgh, PA 15213412-647-2100
For more information or to schedule an appointment at the UPMC Center for Robotic Head and neck Surgery, please call 412-647-2100.
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