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Pioneering robotic surgery for throat cancer


The first three North East patients have benefited from cutting-edge robotic surgery for throat cancer.

Leading head and neck surgeons carried out the robotic surgery at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, to remove cancers of the tonsil, base of tongue and the larynx (voice box) on the same day - the first time this kind of procedure has been carried out in a multi disciplinary cancer centre in the country.

Microscopic examination has confirmed that the cancers have been completely removed and the patients are recovering well.

Mr Vinidh Paleri who is a Consultant in Head and Neck Surgery within the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at Newcastle University, used a £2m da Vinci robot for the surgery.

Designed to carry out complex surgery, the surgeons operate the robot from a console using joysticks to control robotic arms with tiny instruments.

Mr Paleri, explains how Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS) can help: “The minimally invasive TORS approach means that we can carry out surgery via the mouth, using less operating time, reducing the impact on speech and swallowing, and patients have been able to leave hospital much more quickly. It also reduces the need for and the dose of radiation therapy in these patients."

Working alongside fellow Consultant in Head and Neck Surgery and Honorary Clinical Lecturer, Mr David Meikle, Mr Paleri found the new technique reduces complications and speeds up recovery time.

He added: “TORS will dramatically improve the way we treat head and neck cancer patients in future. It allows us to remove tumours and treat non-cancerous conditions affecting often very tricky to get to areas, without the need for major surgery.

“The alternative can mean ear-to-ear incisions across the throat, or in some cases splitting the jaw, resulting in speech and swallowing problems.”

The UK has seen a 51% increase in this cancer between 1989 and 2006, and as the rate of some types of throat cancer continues to increase, this procedure will become ever more important.

Patient, Alan Newstead underwent surgery with the da Vinci robot and described the experience to the Chronicle newspaper. 

(Picture features the Da Vinci robot during an operation)

published on: 11 April 2013