Robotic surgery in the pediatric airway: application and safety

Reza Rahbar, Lynne R Ferrari, Joseph G Borer, Craig A Peters
Archives of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery 2007, 133 (1): 46-50; discussion 50

OBJECTIVE: To assess the application and safety of transoral robotic surgery in the pediatric airway.

DESIGN: An institutional review board-approved study. Experimental laryngeal surgery was performed on 4 pediatric cadaver larynxes as controls. Application of robotic equipment for laryngeal surgery was attempted on 5 patients.

SETTING: Tertiary care pediatric medical center.

PATIENTS: Five patients with laryngeal cleft and 4 pediatric cadaver larynxes.

INTERVENTIONS: (1) The da Vinci Surgical Robot (Intuitive Surgical Inc, Sunnyvale, Calif) was used on 4 cadaver larynxes and assessed for the dexterity, precision, and depth perception that it allowed the surgeon during laryngeal surgery. Procedures were documented with still and video photography. (2) The da Vinci Surgical Robot was used through a transoral approach to attempt repair of a laryngeal cleft in 5 pediatric patients who were under spontaneously breathing general anesthesia.

RESULTS: (1) Use of the surgical robot on cadaver larynxes provided great dexterity and precision, delicate tissue handling, good 3-dimensional depth perception, and relatively easy endolaryngeal suturing. (2) The surgical robot could not be used for repair of laryngeal cleft on 3 patients owing to limited transoral access. However, 1 patient with a type 1 laryngeal cleft and 1 patient with a type 2 laryngeal cleft underwent transoral robotic repair with great success.

CONCLUSIONS: Surgical robots provide the ability to manipulate instruments at their distal end with great precision, increased freedom of movement, and excellent 3-dimensional depth perception. The size of the equipment can be a limiting factor with regard to the application and success of the transoral approach to airway surgery. We believe that further advances in device technology and a new generation of robotic equipment will facilitate the incorporation of surgical robotics in the advancement of minimally invasive endoscopic airway surgery.

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