Can Robotic Surgery be Used for Thyroid Cancer?

Robotic scarless thyroid surgery techniques are safe and effective as a cancer operation for almost all patients with thyroid cancer. When compared to the traditional open surgery where a large incision is placed in the front of the neck, robotic thyroid surgery can remove the thyroid cancer in the same fasion and leave no scar in the neck at all.

Robotic Thyroid Cancer Surgery is all About Better Tools and Technology

Thyroid cancer surgery is about having the right diagnosis, the right tools, and most importantly, the right surgeon. Robotic surgery is becoming widely used in many types of cancer treatment as minimally invasive surgeries have become a standard of care. Since the introduction of robotic technology, most endoscopic surgeries have transitioned to robotic technique given its much better visualization of the tissues and the cancer, better tools (robotic instruments), and better control of the instruments. Currently well over five thousand cases of robotic thyroid cancer operations have been performed with an excellent outcome and the indications for robotic cancer surgery have steadily expended (link publications).

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Robotic Thyroid Cancer Surgery: Remove Cancer, Preserve Normal Tissues

Clean resection of the cancer tissue while preserving the normal tissue is the key principle in cancer surgery. Simply said, cancer surgery is about cutting out the bad and preserving the good. Clean resection, precise sharp dissection, gentle handling of the tissue, preserving the capsule or the outer lining of the cancer are all important aspects of cancer surgery. These goals are often EASIER to accomplish during robotic thyroid surgery than they are with traditional thyroid surgery. The operating robot allows 4 to 10 times magnification of the dissecting tissues which helps make sure the best cancer operation is performed.

Cancer surgery is also about being prepared for any unexpected findings during the surgery that may change the course of the surgery. In thyroid surgery, a planned partial thyroid surgery may not be adequate when these unexpected findings are present during your surgery. If there is a suspicion for thyroid cancer invasion to the surrounding tissue (e.g. muscle invasion), extension beyond the thyroid capsule, or spread to adjacent lymph nodes. In these cases, your entire thyroid gland should be removed along with involved lymph nodes or even the surrounding muscle. Therefore, proper diagnosis, indications for surgery, surgical technique, instruments, and surgeon’s experiences are crucial in achieving the best outcomes with chance of cure, low risk of recurrence, and minimal risk of complications.

Chosing Robotic Thyroid Surgery for YOUR Thyroid Cancer

In choosing robotic thyroid surgery for thyroid cancer, your indications and the expected amount of the thyroid to be removed (just one side vs. both sides--a "total" thyroidectomy) will be reviewed and discussed with the expert surgeon. Based on the findings of your scans (like the ultrasound), FNA needle biopsy, and genetic testing (if performed) will be reviewed and the best options for YOUR thyroid cancer will be discussed.

Once the details of the surgery have been fully discussed. Your best option for scarless surgery will be discussed. Currently, the bilateral axillo-breast approach (BABA) robotic thyroid technique is most suitable for total thyroid or complete thyroid resection with an excellent exposure to both left and right side of the thyroid gland as well as lymph nodes in the neck which may be involved due to cancer spread. Therefore, if needed, the robotic technique can remove the adjacent lymph nodes with a great precision.

Robotic Thyroid Cancer Surgery: Better Technology for Better Results

Robotic surgery means the surgeon uses a "robot" to help him/her perform the operation. The operating robot is very fancy tool, and it has become the preferred tool when it comes to cancer surgery. Robotic techniques became a standard of care for many cancer operations such as prostate, cervix, lung, colon, etc. Thyroid cancer surgery is a very delicate operation. Cancer may cause dense adhesions from inflammation or even direct invasion to the surrounding tissues. Also, the incidence of generalized inflammation of the thyroid is higher in patients with cancer which makes the thyroid more fibrotic, sticky, or swollen. All these factors pose challenge when dissecting the thyroid and the cancer off delicate structures such as the recurrent laryngeal nerve and parathyroid glands. Gentle and refined dissections are required to prevent voice problems due to recurrent laryngeal nerve injury and to prevent calcium related complications postop due to parathyroid gland injuries (figures, instruments).

Robotic Thyroid Cancer Surgery: It's About the Surgeon, Not the Robot!

The Best Robotic SURGEON!
Dr Hyun Suh is America's best trained and highest volume robotic thyroid surgeon.

The robot may be the best tool for cancer surgery, but it is your surgeon who controls the robot arms. The surgeon's skill is the greatest hinderance to the robotic thyroid technique, thus your surgeon’s experience in robotic surgery is the most important thing for you to consider. This technique takes a long time, and many cases for a surgeon to learn. For your robotic thyroid surgery, find an expert robotic thyroid surgeon. Dr Suh trained in Korea with the surgeons who invented robotic thyroid surgery and brought this technology back to the US. Dr Suh is the highest volume, and most experienced robotic thyroid surgeon in the US by far. There is a reason that people from all over the country (and other countries) travel to Tampa to have Dr Suh perform their robotic thyroid operation.
We have an entire page that discusses how to travel to Tampa to have Dr Suh perform your scarless thyroid operation.