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Performing Transoral Robotic Surgery with the DaVinci SP

Updated: Jan 29, 2022


Dr Steven Sperry with the DaVinci SP surgical robot

The Head and Neck Cancer Program at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center is the first in the state of Wisconsin to utilize a new robotic surgery system, the DaVinci SP. This technology optimizes surgical outcomes and provides the cutting edge surgical treatment option for patients with oropharyngeal (throat) cancer. Dr. Steven Sperry, head and neck surgeon with the cancer program, has a special expertise in transoral robotic surgery (TORS). With the rise in HPV related oropharynx cancer, the H&N Oncology team has selectively expanded the role of surgery and decreased the need for the conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy, in order to avoid some significant lifelong side effects for patients.


Oropharynx cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that develops in the throat, at the back of the tongue or the tonsils. It commonly is associated with past infection with HPV (human papilloma virus), which is associated with cancer in younger patients and is very treatable with good prognosis. Treatment with both chemotherapy and radiation therapy has been a primary treatment modality for two decades. This treatment is effective but also toxic, causing changes to the normal tissues of the face and neck, along with lifelong swallowing issues. Some patients are unable to eat or drink after treatment and need a feeding tube for adequate nutrition intake.


In the past decade, transoral robotic surgery has been used for removal of these tumors. In appropriately selected patients, a single surgery can completely remove the cancer and cure the disease, potentially without any further treatment being needed. Recent scientific studies have also shown similar rates of disease-free survival (cure) as compared to traditional approaches of chemotherapy and radiation. Patients have a short recovery following surgery, and return to good swallowing following this.


The new DaVinci SP robotic surgery platform is the latest technology, developed specifically with transoral robotic surgery in mind. The device is specifically approved by the FDA for transoral resection of benign and malignant disease in the throat. The technology is configured to allow multiple surgical instrument arms to fit in the small space of the throat, along with a high definition camera.

We are confident that this new surgical technology will allow us to continue to achieve clear surgical margins around oropharynx cancers and optimize functional outcomes for even more patients.
 


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