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Robotic Surgery Treats Tonsil Cancer

Surgeon manipulates motorized arms to snip away tumors

TUESDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- A new robotic surgical system shows promise in the removal of cancer involving the tonsils, researchers say.

According to a team at the University of Pennsylvania, the transoral robotic surgery (TORS) system includes three instrument-holding robotic arms and a central arm with an endoscope, an optical instrument with two video cameras that offers a three-dimensional view for the surgeon, who uses handles on a console to control the movement of the robotic arms.

This study included 27 patients who had radical tonsillectomy to treat cancer. In 25 (93 percent) of the patients, surgeons were able to use TORS to remove all cancerous tissues. The average length of stay after surgery was just under two hours. After the procedure, 26 of the patients were able to swallow without the use of a stomach tube.

Complications occurred in five (19 percent) of the patients, and most of those were resolved without significant consequences, the study authors said.

"Radical tonsillectomy using TORS is a new technique that offers excellent access for resection of carcinomas of the tonsil with acceptable acute morbidity," or complications, the researchers concluded. "Future reports will focus on long-term oncologic and functional outcomes."

Two of the study authors received payment from Intuitive Surgical Inc. for time, materials and teaching a TORS workshop.

The findings were published in the December issue of the journal Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

More information

Cancer Research UK has more about tonsil cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 17, 2007

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