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NorthShore University HealthSystem First in Midwest to Use New, Flexible Robot for Head, Neck and Throat Surgeries

10/10/2017 – NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) is the first health system in the Midwest to use a minimally invasive flexible robotic system to surgically remove hard-to-reach growths in the head, neck and throat through the patient’s mouth.

This breakthrough procedure was completed Aug. 21 at NorthShore Evanston Hospital by Otolaryngologist Mihir Bhayani, MD. The robot resembles a long, flexible tube that can bend, twist and turn to maneuver through the curvatures of the throat. Tumors in the throat, base of the tongue and tonsils can be a technical challenge to reach, said Dr. Bhayani.

“These tumors have traditionally been removed using instrumentation with limited visualization and bulkier instruments that many times were not suitable for the small spaces in the pharynx,” said Dr. Bhayani. “By going through the mouth with a flexible instrument, we are able to better visualize the tumors for a more complete resection, and it gives our patients the benefits of less pain and quicker healing time.”

Elizabeth Dorman, 35, of Wheeling, Illinois, who has a rare condition that causes recurring neck tumors, has had four surgeries on her neck. Her most recent procedure was in September with Dr. Bhayani using the flex robot.

“If Dr. Bhayani was not able to get this cancer with the robot, he would eventually have needed to go through my neck,” Dorman said. “This would have almost certainly impacted my ability to swallow.”

Dr. Bhayani said he can move the flexible robotic endoscope and navigate a nearly 180-degree path to reach challenging areas. A camera inserted through the device allows him to view a highly magnified, high-resolution image of the surgical site. He uses a joystick-like control to direct the scope.

“This is an exciting, new alternative that gives us greater surgical precision and enhanced visualization,” said Mark E. Gerber, MD, Division Chief of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at NorthShore. “We are proud to be the first in the Midwest to offer this advanced technique.”