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Robotic Head and Neck Surgery

Robotic-assisted surgery to remove throat cancer, especially tumors of the tonsils and tongue, is becoming a treatment of choice when appropriate because of its minimal side effects and positive patient outcomes.

The doctors at Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center are skilled in robotic procedures utilizing the da Vinci® Surgical System, which offers increased control and precision in the operating room. With robotic tools that offer more flexibility than the human hand, surgeons are able to work within a patient’s mouth, avoiding external incisions in the neck and jaw that can leave permanent scarring and difficulties in speaking, eating and swallowing. Robotic procedures also eliminate the need for a tracheotomy — a procedure that creates an airway through a breathing tube during surgery. Furthermore, robotic surgery for cancers of the throat often reduces or avoids the need for chemo-radiation therapy.

In addition, throat cancer patients may also benefit from other advantages of robotic surgery, including less blood loss, less chance of complications, less scarring, reduced hospital stays and faster recovery to normal eating and speaking.*

Robotic Resection of Tonsil and Base of Tongue Tumors

Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) is the term for robotic surgery that is performed to remove a tumor from the mouth or throat. TORS is a relatively new approach to remove cancers from areas in the throat that are difficult to access, including the base of tongue and the bottom of the tonsil. For people suffering from head and neck cancers, this approach avoids the traumatic and disfiguring aspects of traditional open surgery. Robotic procedures leave the jaw intact, avoid cranial nerves and shorten recovery times while lowering the risk of complications. 

The da Vinci® robotic-assisted system provides surgeons with improved vision, enhanced dexterity and easier access to difficult-to-reach areas of the throat. Recovery to normal activities can be expected to take days compared to weeks with traditional open surgery.   

Robotic Obstructive Sleep Apnea Procedures 

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of the upper airway, most often when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. OSA causes shallow or paused breathing during sleep, which can lead to loud snoring, restless sleep, daytime sleepiness and other symptoms. 

Until now, patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea had relatively few choices in treatment besides lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, breathing devices and traditional invasive surgical techniques.

Transoral robotic surgery for severe obstructive sleep apnea is primarily for patients whose sleep apnea is caused by a tongue-based obstruction because it focuses on reducing the size of the base of the tongue. Patients who require this procedure are assessed during an in-office examination that includes a sleep study review and examination of tissue obstruction.

The robotic procedure involves minimal incisions with little scarring and a faster recovery than conventional surgery. The procedure eliminates the need for mouthpieces or breathing devices generally used for sleep apnea treatment.

This procedure requires a 1­–2 day hospital stay following surgery. A full recovery takes about 3 weeks compared with 6–8 weeks for conventional open surgery.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, call the Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center Head and Neck Cancer Center at 321.841.7171.

*As with any surgical procedure, robotic surgery involves risk, some of which may be similar to the risks of conventional open surgery. Talk to your doctor to decide if robotic surgery is right for you.