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A robotic thymectomy is a highly precise, minimally invasive surgical procedure that is performed to remove the thymus. This small gland, which is situated behind the breast bone between the lungs and above the heart, plays a key role in the early development of the immune system and becomes less active after adolescence. A thymectomy may be recommended for a patient who is diagnosed with a small cancer of the thymus (thymoma) or myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune condition that causes muscle weakness and occasionally accompanies thymus cancer.
Because the thymus is located in close proximity to the heart and other vital organs, its surgical removal requires refined skills and extensive dexterity on the part of a surgeon. The fellowship-trained surgeons in the Thoracic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center perform robotic thymectomies with the assistance of the advanced da Vinci® Surgical System. When appropriate for a patient with a small tumor, this is our preferred approach for removing the thymus.
Benefits of robotic surgery
The advent of robotic thymectomy using the da Vinci System was groundbreaking for several reasons:
- This minimally invasive approach eliminates the need to split the breastbone (sternum) in order to access the middle of the chest. Instead, a robotic thymectomy can be performed through a few small incisions, which can significantly reduce trauma to surrounding tissue and bones.
- Robotic assistance adds a significant level of finesse to a thymectomy. The highly precise movements of the surgical instruments used during a robotic thymectomy can lead to less post-operative pain, a faster recovery and a better cosmetic result.
- The da Vinci System provides a surgeon with a three-dimensional, high-definition view of the surgical site, as well as tiny wristed instruments that are capable of bending and rotating much farther than the human hand. These innovative features can greatly enhance a surgeon’s vision, precision and control, leading to better outcomes and quality of life for patients.
While the da Vinci System is undeniably state of the art, its true advantages are realized when the equipment is placed in the capable hands of a skilled and experienced surgeon. Because the surgeons at Moffitt perform thymectomies and robotic procedures on a regular basis, they have gained extensive experience with the da Vinci System and detailed knowledge about the most effective ways to use it.