Objective: To develop a minimally invasive surgical technique for the treatment of base of tongue neoplasms using the optical and technical advantages of robotic surgical instrumentation.
Study Design: Ten experimental procedures including tongue base exposure and dissections were performed on three cadavers and two mongrel dogs. Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) was then performed on three human patients with tongue base cancers in a prospective human trial.
Methods: Using the da Vinci Surgical Robot (Intuitive Surgical, Inc., Sunnyvale, CA), we performed a total of 10 base of tongue resections on edentulous and dentate cadavers as well as live mongrel dogs. In the cadaver models, exposure was evaluated using three different retractors, the Dingman, Crowe Davis, and FK retractors. The three human patients underwent TORS surgery of their tongue base cancers under an institutional review board approved prospective clinical trial. The ability to identify and preserve or resect key anatomic structures such as the glossopharyngeal, hypoglossal, and lingual nerves as well as techniques for identifying the lingual artery and achieving hemostasis were developed.
Results: The da Vinci Surgical Robot provided excellent visualization and enabled removal of the posterior one third to one half of the oral tongue in cadavers, dogs, and human patients. Among the three retractors evaluated, the FK retractor offered the greatest versatility and overall exposure for robotic instrument maneuverability. Complete resection to negative surgical margins with excellent hemostasis and no complications was achieved in the live patient surgeries.
Conclusions: TORS provided excellent three-dimensional visualization and instrument access that allowed successful surgical resections from cadaver models to human patients. TORS is a novel and minimally invasive approach to tongue neoplasms that has significant advantages over classic open surgery or endoscopic transoral laser surgery.