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Science & Tech

Robotic Surgery Reaches New Territory

In the first such procedure to be performed in a New England hospital, surgeons at Boston Medical Center have used a robot to help remove a head-and-neck cancer from a patient.

The BMC head-and-neck surgical team, led by Gregory Grillone, an associate professor and vice chairman of the department of otolaryngology at the School of Medicine, used the da Vinci robotic system to remove a cancer deep in the back of a patient’s mouth.

“In doing so,” says Grillone, “our patient was spared a 10-centimeter incision from his jaw to his chest — a drastic procedure that also would have required cracking the jaw open to reach the cancer and a recovery time of at least two weeks. He he was able to go home the next day.”

Since its introduction at BMC in 2006, the da Vinci robot has been commonly used for minimally invasive urologic surgery. Guided by the surgeon, specialized instruments attached to the robot can move freely, in all directions, similar to movements of the human wrist. The robot allows for 3D imaging, providing surgeons with a depth of field while operating — an additional perspective and an advantage not found in traditional laparoscopic surgery.

“As we gain more experience,” says Grillone, “we can apply these techniques to bigger and more complex tumors and give our patients the most innovative treatment options available. By using our da Vinci robot, surgeons can perform a potentially complicated surgery faster and with less recovery time for the patient.”