New Type of Thyroid Surgery Leaves No Visible Scar (Video)

A new type of surgery performed at Miami Cancer Institute is allowing surgeons to operate on patients with certain benign and cancerous thyroid conditions without leaving a visible scar.  Unlike traditional thyroid surgery, which involves about a two-inch incision in the neck, a surgeon accesses the butterfly-shaped gland located on top of the windpipe through the lower lip.

(Video: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Robert Udelsman, M.D., chief of endocrine surgery at Miami Cancer Institute, about a new thyroid surgery technique that leaves no visible scar. Video by Steve Pipho.)

“For the right patients, this aesthetic approach is ideal,” said Robert Udelsman, M.D., MBA, chief of endocrine surgery and director of the Endocrine Neoplasia Institute at Miami Cancer Instituteand one of the first physicians in the U.S. to be fully trained in the new surgical technique. “With outcomes similar to those for open thyroidectomy, an option that leaves no scar is important for some patients, particularly those who don’t want a daily reminder of their cancer.”

Called a transoral thyroidectomy, the surgery is used to treat both benign and cancerous thyroid conditions. Madelyn Garcia is the first patient in Florida to undergo the operation. Diagnosed with a thyroid nodule two years ago, she sought treatment from an experienced endocrine surgeon when the nodules caused significant pain and changed the way her thyroid was functioning. Dr. Udelsman explained he could operate on her without leaving a scar on her neck, and Ms. Garcia opted to have the surgery.

“I have no scar on my neck,” Ms. Garcia said one month after her surgery. “Just three days after the surgery, I was already feeling much better.”

Dr. Udelsman had done more than 5,000 thyroidectomies the traditional way when he heard about the new technique being performed in Thailand. After speaking with Angkoon Anuwong, M.D., the surgeon pioneering transoral thyroidectomies there, Dr. Udelsman traveled overseas to learn more and receive training.

For patients to do well with this type of surgery, a specially trained surgeon is vital, Dr. Udelsman says. The approach involves intricately navigating around delicate anatomy that surrounds the thyroid gland and taking measures to avoid damage to the delicate structures.

Besides the cosmetic benefits of thyroid surgery through the mouth, the procedure is also as safe as traditional thyroid surgery, according to a research study published earlier this year in JAMA Surgery. Transoral thyroidectomies cause less bleeding and result in shorter recovery times.

Ms. Garcia’s thyroid nodule was not cancerous, but the new technique is also being used for thyroid cancer and other thyroid and parathyroid gland procedures.

“We want every operation tailored to what’s best for each individual patient,” Dr. Udelsman said. “New techniques that allow us to do more for patients by doing less are providing a lot of new options.”

The Baptist Health News Team joined Dr. Udelsman at Ms. Garcia’s post-operative office visit to learn more. Watch the video now.

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