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Transoral robotic surgery for oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma: A prospective study of feasibility and functional outcomes


  • The authors have no financial associations with Intuitive Surgical. This study was funded by internal institutional research funding and was independent of any industry related financial or any other support. The use of the da Vinci surgical device for head and neck surgery was off-label use and non-FDA approved.



To investigate the feasibility of transoral robotic surgery as a method of surgical treatment of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma.

Study Design:

Prospective case study.


Forty-five patients with previously untreated oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma underwent transoral robotic surgical removal of the tumor with or without neck dissection and with or without adjuvant therapy. Patients were observed and data were recorded on surgical time, blood loss, surgical complications, tracheostomy tube course, enteral feeding, and resumption of oral diet, speech outcomes, swallowing outcomes, and tumor recurrence.


All 45 patients underwent complete transoral robotic surgical excision with simultaneous unilateral or bilateral neck dissection. Margins were negative for tumor. Mean operating time for tumor removal was 71.3 minutes for the last 35 cases. There were 15 stage T1 tumors, 18 T2 tumors, 3 T3 tumors, and 9 T4a tumors. Twenty-six patients had base of tongue primary tumors and 19 had tonsillar fossa tumors. Fourteen patients had a tracheostomy tube placed at surgery, and all patients had their tracheostomy tube removed (mean duration of use, 7.0 days). Twenty-two patients (48.9%) had a nasogastric feeding tube placed, and all patients had their feeding tube removed (mean duration of use, 12.5 days). Eight patients had percutaneous gastrostomy (PEG) tubes placed, and all eight eventually had their PEG tubes removed (mean duration of use, 140.3 days). Average hospital stay was 3.8 days. There were no major complications and no procedure was aborted because of an inability to remove the tumor.


Transoral robotic surgery is a safe and efficacious method of surgical treatment of oropharyngeal neoplasms. Advantages of the technique include adequate ability to visualize and manipulate with two hands lesions in the base of tongue. Patients were able to retain or rapidly regain oropharyngeal function in the majority of cases. Laryngoscope, 2009

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