New Robot-Assisted Surgical Techniques Aid Lung Cancer Patients

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 11:06am
Attending Surgeon, Department of Thoracic Surgery, Associate Professor of Oncology

At Roswell Park, my colleagues and I now perform over 90% of lung cancer surgeries with minimally invasive surgical techniques. With the introduction of more advanced robot-assisted surgical systems, we are further refining the ways we treat even aggressive lung cancers. 

We have found that robot-assisted surgical techniques give us superior results to previous “open” surgeries. We are able to remove sections of a lung, as well as more advanced treatment options such as removal of an entire lung with small incisions. Thus, we are able to offer a much shorter recovery time for our patients. These computerized surgical systems allow for an extraordinary level of precision and finesse. 

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of our robot-assisted lung surgery program is the ability to extensively dissect lymph nodes surrounding the tumor. Pathologic assessment of these lymph nodes, in turn, provides information that guides subsequent treatment decisions such as the use of chemotherapy after surgery. The enhanced dexterity that the surgical robot provides also facilitates suturing of structures such as the airway.

I am proud to share that here at Roswell Park, we are an international leader in the minimally invasive removal of the entire lung. The result is often a greatly decreased loss of blood during surgery, and usually a decreased need for pain medication after surgery for our patients. We have presented results of our work at several international conferences resulting in a number of peer-reviewed publications. We have also trained other surgeons to perform similar minimally invasive procedures.

While the robot remains a great tool for cancer care, we are laying the foundation to conduct a scientific comparison of robot-assisted thoracic surgery (RATS) with conventional video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). Our research will help inform the work of surgeons across the world. While these machines will never likely replace surgeons, they offer skilled surgeons the opportunity to be even more precise, and to create more custom-made plans for each and every patient’s case and disease circumstances. 

Our goal is to constantly facilitate our patients’ smooth recoveries and to help improve their long-term outcomes, which, to me, is simply less pain, earlier surgical recuperation, and a quicker return to everyone’s daily life and activities with friends, family and loved ones.