CAN I HAVE A ROBOTIC THYROIDECTOMY?
Robotic thyroidectomy is a special type of thyroid operation that employs a robot to assist the surgeon. It was developed in Korea and has a niche market for patients who do not wish to have any incision in the neck at all. It remains popular in that country for cultural reasons and the fact that problems with visible, poorly healing scars are much more common in Korean and Asian populations. It has not become widely used elsewhere in the world. The FDA in America has withdrawn support for robotic thyroidectomy in the USA.
Whilst there is no incision in the neck, the operation is much more extensive than standard thyroidectomy requiring dissection from a large incision either in the armpit, behind the ear, or on the chest wall, with dissection under the skin up to the thyroid. This results in increased pain and stiffness of areas including the shoulder with numbness over the font of the chest or side of face. Whilst outcomes from the Severance Hospital in Korea are excellent, that is based on an experience of thousands of cases, and most surgeons in other countries have limited experience with the potential for increased complications.
The procedure is also associated with significant extra costs as the robot and consumables are very expensive. There is one unit in Sydney with limited experience in robotic thyroidectomy, however the procedure is confined to small (<3cm) benign nodules in patients who do not wish to have an incision in the neck for cosmetic reasons. Although sometimes marketed as such, robotic thyroidectomy is not minimally invasive surgery – it is a large operation with the sole purpose of avoiding a scar.
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