Drs. Tod Huntley and Ed Krowiak with the Center for Ear, Nose Throat and Allergy (CENTA) at St.Vincent Hospital are the first in Indiana and are among a select group of physicians in the United States trained to remove throat cancers using the da Vinci robotic surgical system. The new procedure is for patients with similar throat cancers like academy award winning actor, Michael Douglas.
To operate the technology, physicians maneuver the da Vinci’s small robotic arms down the throat to remove cancerous tumors. This approach prevents the use of the traditional physically disfiguring surgery of opening the face and jawbone to reach the tumors. Because of the highly-trained physicians and innovation of the da Vinci technology, St.Vincent patients are now discharged in less than five days, as opposed to multiple weeks of inpatient recovery time from the traditional surgery.
“Having this capability to remove a throat cancer tumor without any external incisions is paramount for the modern head and neck surgeon,” said Dr. Huntley. “This truly is a paradigm shift in the way we treat patients.”
Throat cancer occurs in the mouth and throat, including the tonsils, tongue base and voice box. The cancer usually develops in adults over 50 and men are 10 times more likely to develop throat cancer than women. Worldwide, there are about 290,000 cases a year. Studies show people with a history of tobacco and alcohol dependence have a higher rate of throat cancer.
Aside from surgery, traditional throat cancer treatment options include chemotherapy or radiation for approximately seven weeks. While these non-surgical alternatives save the patient from the risk of physical disfigurement, they can lead to side effects such as lifelong dependency on a feeding tube. With the da Vinci® procedure, the risk of a patient needing a long-term feeding tube is less than 5 percent.
The da Vinci robotic surgical system enhances surgical capabilities by providing greater visualization and precision for the surgeon and a more rapid recovery for the patient. The robotic procedure provides surgeons with an alternative to traditional surgery by manually operating a robot to allow a more complex and delicate procedure. Patients benefit from the innovative surgery technique as it relates to recovery time, risk for disfigurement and discomfort.
“We are doing something completely different,” said Dr. Krowiak. “This new procedure enables us to provide patients with an innovative alternative approach to removing a throat cancer tumor in ways we previously could only dream of conducting.”
For more information, call the CENTA office at 1-800-283-1056.