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Using robot-assisted surgery to treat esophageal cancer.

Chemotherapy and radiation often are not enough to treat esophageal cancer. The doctor may recommend an esophagectomy -- surgery to remove the part of the esophagus affected by cancer. It often involves removing part of the stomach as well.

We are one of only a handful of hospitals in the country to perform robot-assisted esophagectomy. In fact, we use this minimally invasive approach in more than 95 percent of esophagectomy procedures. Because of our expertise, we treat patients from across the United States who have complex cases of esophageal cancer and can’t have traditional open surgery due to their age or other health concerns.

Types of esophagectomy

We use different methods for esophagectomy based on where the cancer is located:

  • Adenocarcinoma (cancer in the lower esophagus): The surgeon will remove the section of esophagus affected by cancer, a small area of surrounding healthy tissue, and part of the stomach. Next, the surgeon will connect the stomach to the remaining, healthy portion of the esophagus.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (cancer in the upper esophagus): The surgeon will remove most of the esophagus and bring the stomach up higher to connect it to the remaining, healthy tissue. If there is not enough healthy esophagus left to make this connection, the surgeon may use part of the intestine.

Benefits of robot-assisted surgery

In a robot-assisted esophagectomy, the surgeon uses controls similar to joysticks to manipulate robot arms. These arms hold special surgical instruments that the surgeon guides into keyhole-sized incisions. The robotic “wrists” move 360 degrees, which allows the surgeon greater precision and flexibility.

The benefits of this type of surgery over traditional open surgery include:

  • Better outcomes
  • Faster recovery
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Smaller incisions and minimal scarring
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