*This is excerpted from an article by UCSF. You can read the original article here.*
UCSF endocrine surgeons Insoo Suh, M.D. and Quan-Yang Duh M.D. performed the institution’s first “scarless” thyroidectomy – removal of the thyroid gland – on April 17th at UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion, the first surgeons in the western U.S. and among the first in the world to perform the surgery with a new technique using small incisions in the mouth and leaving no visible surgical scar in the neck.
"The procedure was developed due to increased demand and emphasis on minimizing the visible evidence of surgery for patients", said Suh. “For many patients, a scar on the front of the neck from standard thyroid or parathyroid surgery causes significant concern and fear, no matter how well the incisions typically heal,” he said. “These were the patients we expected to benefit from this procedure when we started this program at UCSF.”
Dr. Suh’s team performed the surgery using a technique known as the “transoral vestibular approach.” This technique involves making small incisions behind the lower lip, and using thin endoscopic cameras and instruments to remove the thyroid from the neck. This first operation was performed for an enlarging thyroid nodule.
To date, fewer than 100 patients in the U.S. have undergone transoral thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy. The number, however, is projected to grow to benefit a sizable proportion of the 150,000 procedures currently being performed annually.
"While the length of the procedure is slightly longer than standard thyroid or parathyroid surgery, the transoral technique, which differs from the conventional approach, appears to be a safe and effective alternative", Duh said. "However, this approach also requires careful selection appropriate to the patient and disease."
“Based on the results thus far, we’re excited about this technique", Suh said, "but it must be emphasized that this is a relatively new procedure and must be studied further. “We’re fortunate to be at the forefront of developing and refining this procedure which holds great promise for our patients.”