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Thyroid operations without neck scarring

The University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht is the first site in the Netherlands to start a new way of performing thyroid operations. Patients will no longer be left with an obvious scar in the neck: instead, there will only be a small scar in the armpit. The first operation of this kind was a success.

Patients with thyroid tumors currently undergo operations that leave a scar in the neck. People undergoing this intervention are often younger women, for whom the scarring can be seen as a problem.

Surgeons Dr. Menno Vriens and Professor Inne Borel Rinkes of UMC Utrecht have therefore introduced a new surgical technique to the Netherlands. This technique involves minimally invasive surgery using a robot for the operation. Two robot manipulators and a camera approach the thyroid through a small incision in the armpit. The surgeon performing the operation controls the robot instruments remotely, assisted by the surgeon at the operating table.

First operation on a patient
Menno Vriens and Borel Rinkes have now performed the first operation of this kind on a patient with a thyroid tumor. The patient is doing well. Doctors at UMC Utrecht hope in the first instance to be able to operate on about fifty patients a year using the new technique. In the Netherlands, several thousand patients a year undergo thyroid surgery. All patients with thyroid tumors of up to three centimeters will be considered for this new technique.

South Korea
“The technique was developed in South Korea, where a scar in the throat is socially very undesirable,” explains Dr. Vriens. “We are the first to apply this method in the Netherlands and apart from us there are just a few other specialist centers in the world where this procedure is done. The new technique does not improve the treatment of thyroid conditions; the benefits are purely cosmetic. But that can matter a great deal for patients’ quality of life.”

Before Vriens and Borel Rinkes operated on their first patient, they studied the technique with surgeons who were already proficient in it, as well as practising extensively in the dissecting room. The new technique is internationally recognized as being safe and there are no particular adverse effects. The larger physical area affected by the operation does mean that patients may temporarily experience more pain after the operation.
18 April 2012