Posted on April 30, 2015

Diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancers, the second most common cancer among females in the GCC countries, have become less complicated due to robot-assisted techniques and the new technology could soon replace conventional forms of thyroid surgery, say doctors at Apollo Hospitals, Asia’s foremost healthcare provider and pioneer in minimally invasive procedures in India.

“Thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers which can occur in both sexes but is more common in women than men. Global reports indicate that thyroid cancer cases have risen sharply in the last few decades due to various factors, including more sensitive diagnostic procedures and a true increase. With the advent of the Robotic surgical systems, it is now possible to do thyroid surgery without opening the neck and without leaving a visible scar,” said Dr.Umanath Nayak (pictured), Consultant Head & Neck and Robotic surgeon, Apollo Cancer Hospitals, Hyderabad (India).

A 10-year cancer incidence report on the GCC shows thyroid cancer cases increased 24% in males and 63% among females during the 1998-2007 period. Presently, thyroid cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the GCC while in the UK it stands 20th in the table. Qatari women reported the highest incidence of thyroid cancer followed by Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, KSA, and Oman. In all GCC States thyroid cancer invariably remains the second most common cancer among females after breast cancer.

“Thyroid nodules are a common problem that a clinician faces in his practice. The vast majority of these nodules are benign and unless progressing or causing symptoms, they are usually left alone and not operated upon. However, a small percentage of these nodules can be malignant, making surgical removal of the diseased gland mandatory,” said Dr.Umanath.

Surgery of the thyroid is done through an incision in the lower part of the neck, which could leave a thick and unsightly – and psychologically upsetting for young patients - scar in some cases. Robotic thyroid surgery for benign and cancerous nodules of the thyroid gland is done through an incision in the axilla (armpit) thus avoiding a visible scar in the neck.  Specially designed retractors allow the robotic arms to reach the neck region and remove the thyroid without cutting open the neck.

The robotic arms are controlled by a computer console which the surgeon operates using hand and foot controls. The endo-wrist attached to the robotic arms can move in different directions and at multiple angles (270 degrees) - something that the human wrist cannot - and therefore can dissect, suture and divide tissues in otherwise impossible locations with a precision that even expert surgeons cannot achieve. An endoscopic camera provides a 3-D magnified view of the surgical field when viewed through the console making structures like nerves, blood vessels etc. much larger and therefore more easily visible.

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“In spite of the technology being deployed, a surgeon’s role is still important for it is his hand movements that are transmitted to the robotic arms. Apollo Hospitals is equipped with the new generation da Vinci® Surgical System, which eliminates tiny, uncontrolled movements in the surgeon’s arms making cancer surgery much more precise. Using small and hidden incisions the surgeon can remove complex tumours minimising tissue damage, hastening recovery and reducing hospitalisation,” explained Dr. Nayak.

Trans-oral robotic surgery (TORS), or surgery for cancer of the throat via the mouth, is a fast-growing application area for robotics. The technology has also enabled better outcomes in gastro-intestinal and colorectal surgeries, gynaecological procedures such as hysterectomy, myomectomy (removal of fibroids) and other pelvic surgeries as well as radical prostatectomy for early and localised cancer of the prostate.

Apollo Hospitals is a major referral centre for minimally invasive surgeries and receives a large number of patients from all over the world looking for affordable, superior quality medical care along with less waiting time and minimum hospital stay.  Over 60,000 foreign patients from across the world, including the UAE, Oman and Qatar, have been successfully treated at the hospital during the last five years and the numbers are looking up every year.

Emirates, one of the world’s fastest growing airlines, has teamed up with Apollo Hospitals, to connect international patients with quality healthcare services in India. As part of the joint venture, the patients and their attendants from 19 countries across Middle East and Africa can visit the hospital’s flagship locations in Chennai, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmadabad and Bangalore to avail special fares for round-trip flights on Emirates. 

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