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Thyroid Surgery Performed Through the Armpit

Traditional thyroid surgery requires an incision that is several inches long, leaving some patients bothered by the ensuing scar on the front of the neck.  The thyroid is a gland that secretes hormones that help regulate body metabolism.  Surgeons perform thyroid surgery to help treat thyroid cancer or enlarged thyroid glands.  Now, the da Vinci Surgical System enables thyroid surgeons to perform surgery through the armpit, eliminating concerns of neck scars for some patients with benign thyroid disease.

The da Vinci Surgical System is a robotic surgical technique that is revolutionizing gynecologic and urologic surgery over the past 10 years.  The da Vinci Surgical System has 3D visualization to guide surgeons while they control robotics for safe precise surgery.  Head and Neck Surgeons at the Medical College of Georgia, University of Texas A & M Cancer Center, and Texas A&M Health Science Center are perfecting their technique for removing the thyroid through an incision in the armpit. 

The researchers found that raising a patients arm above the head shortens the route to the thyroid.  The da Vinci Surgical System allows them to navigate a route from the armpit through fat and muscle to the thyroid.  The surgery uses a 3 to 4 inch incision in the armpit but no incision at the neck.  Korean surgeons have the most experience so far with robotic thyroidectomy, and the researchers hope that the robotic thyroid surgery will become common in America.

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