Robotic-Assisted Surgery Helps Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Published On 10/22/2010

Arlington resident Robert Foster is looking forward to getting back in the saddle and barrel racing with his horses Red and Nez after he recovers from cancer surgery to remove a stage IV tumor from the base of his tongue.

Foster’s ear, nose, and throat physician thought he would be a good candidate for transoral robotic surgery (TORS) so he recommended Foster see Sandeep Samant, M.D., who specializes in robotic head and neck surgery. “I was glad to know there was another type of surgery that was less invasive than having my chin and jaw broken,” said Foster.

Dr. Samant was the first surgeon in the Mid-South to perform TransOral Robotic Surgery with the da Vinci surgical system. The procedure is performed at Methodist University Hospital and Dr. Samant is one of only a handful of surgeons across the country who is qualified to perform TORS. Accessing tumors in areas of the head and neck robotically provides a number of benefits for the patient including less pain, a shorter hospital stay, a reduced chance of developing swallowing problems, and a quicker recovery.

“The recovery period for conventional surgery is 10 days compared to a three to five day recovery period if the surgery is done using the robot,” explained Dr. Samant.

Depending on which surgical approach is taken, there is a huge difference in the time it takes to complete the procedure. Conventional surgery takes an entire day whereas robotic-assisted surgery takes just one to three hours to finish.

“The robot provides excellent visualization,” said Dr. Samant. “We use a very high quality, high resolution endoscope that can easily move in and out of the patient’s mouth which gives the surgeon a very clear view of the tumor.”

Another benefit surgeons gain when head and neck surgery is performed using the robot is that the robot’s arms which are controlled by the surgeon and operate various surgical instruments can move inside the passages of the throat in a way that simply isn’t possible with human hands.

“I think this surgery is going to help a lot of people,” said Foster. His wife Connie agrees. “I think it’s wonderful to have access to this technology.

Foster will soon be heading to complete a round of radiation and then it’s back in the saddle for him.