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Robotic Thoracic Surgery

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Until recently, if your doctor diagnosed you with a thoracic or foregut disorder requiring surgery, you only had a few options:

  • Traditional surgery — requiring a large open incision, breaking of chest bones, and spreading the chest wide enough to access the surgical site.
  • Laparoscopy — minimally invasive surgery using small incisions, but typically limited to simple procedures.

With the advent of robot-assisted surgery, you now have an alternative to traditional and laparoscopic surgery. Thoracic surgeons at the UPMC Esophageal and Lung Surgery Institute use innovative robotic surgery techniques to treat many thoracic and foregut disorders.

Robotic surgery is one of the most effective and least invasive surgical treatment options available today.

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

Compared to traditional and laparoscopic surgery, benefits of robotic thoracic surgery may include:

  • Less pain in the area of the incision
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Faster recovery
  • Fewer possible complications
  • Less chance of infection
  • Smaller, less noticeable incision scars

Thoracic Diseases We Treat with Robotic Surgery

Our surgeons use the da Vinci® Surgical System, the only FDA-approved robotic surgical system, to treat thoracic diseases and disorders, such as:

  • Thymoma — an unusual cancer associated with several autoimmune system disorders. Your surgeon will perform a robotic thymectomy to remove the thymus gland.
  • Myasthenia gravis (MG) — a neuromuscular disorder involving the thymus gland. People with MG experience weakness in voluntary muscles (usually face and neck muscles). To treat MG, your surgeon will use the surgical robot to remove the thymus gland.
  • Achalasia — a disease of the muscle in the lower esophagus. People with achalasia have difficulty swallowing. The surgeon will perform a robotic-assisted Heller myotomy to correct the muscle.
  • Lung cancer — visit UPMC Hillman Cancer Center to learn more about lung cancer.
  • Esophageal Cancer — Learn more about esophageal cancer and surgical treatment, such as Minimally Invasive Esophagectomy (MIE).

What to Expect During Robotic Thoracic Surgery

During your robotic surgical procedure:

  • The surgeon will make four tiny (1 to 2 cm) incisions to allow the robot to access your thoracic area.
  • A surgical assistant then places miniaturized arm-like instruments of the robot into your thoracic cavity through these incisions. The robotic arms are equipped with different surgical instruments and a high-definition 3D camera.
  • The surgeon sits at a control console and sees a magnified, high-resolution 3D image of the surgical field through the camera arm.
  • From this console, the surgeon manipulates master controls that respond to his or her movements in real time.
  • The computer-assisted robot translates the surgeon’s hand, wrist, or finger movements into precise movements of the four robotic arms.