Non-invasive/Minimally Invasive Procedures

Digestive Care Innovations Hub

Non-invasive/Minimally Invasive Procedures

Robotic Thyroid and Adrenal Gland Surgery

Why is it innovative?

Removal of the thyroid gland is a common procedure and has traditionally been performed through a 1-4 inch incision in the neck. Some patients are unhappy with the visible scar they have after the operation and desire a better cosmetic outcome. NewYork-Presbyterian's endocrine surgeons are leaders in the use of minimally invasive robotic thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid), which is performed through an incision in the armpit. They are also applying the latest robotic surgical approaches to the removal of adrenal tumors that are getting bigger, causing symptoms, or making too many hormones. Compared with traditional open surgery, minimally invasive robotic surgery is associated with less pain after the operation and a shorter hospital stay, as well as improved cosmetic outcomes.

How you benefit

People who have endocrine surgery performed robotically may benefit from:

  • Small incisions with minimized scarring, and in the case of robotic thyroidectomy, an incision that cannot be readily seen
  • Better incision closure due to the steadiness of the robotic system and advances in instrumentation
  • Less pain and discomfort after surgery
  • Lower rate of postsurgical complications
  • Ability to go home the same day or have a shorter hospital stay (typically no more than 1-2 days)
  • A quick recovery and return to normal activities

How does it work?

It's important to note that the robot does not perform the surgery; rather, the robotic system is a tool the surgeon uses to complete the operation. The surgical robot's arms are positioned at the appropriate locations in the patient's body, and the surgeon controls instruments while directly seeing the surgical area using a 3D camera.

  • Robotic thyroidectomy. The surgeon removes the thyroid by inserting the surgical tools through a 6 cm incision in the armpit and advancing them to the site of the thyroid gland.
  • Robotic adrenalectomy. The surgeon removes only the tumor or the entire affected adrenal gland through four small incisions made just below the ribcage in the upper abdomen or the back.

Is it for me?

Your surgeon will let you know if you are a candidate for robotic endocrine surgery.

  • Robotic "scarless" thyroid surgery is an option for most people needing thyroidectomy. It is best suited for people who are at a normal body weight, since this type of surgery cannot be performed on people who are overweight. It is suitable for people with small thyroid masses (5 cm or less) without associated conditions such as thyroiditis or Grave’s disease. It is particularly beneficial for people who do not scar well in the neck area.
  • Robotic adrenalectomy may be performed in people with adrenal tumors up to 8 cm in size which are confined to the adrenal gland. Some tumors may be functional, meaning they produce excess adrenal hormones that are causing symptoms.

What does the future hold?

  • NewYork-Presbyterian's endocrine surgeons hope to be able to secure a robotic surgical system that enables them to complete thyroid and adrenal surgeries through a single port.
  • They are also working to apply robotic surgery to the removal of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.