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Robotic Thymectomy Performed for First Time on Long Island

Robotic-assisted surgery to remove the thymus gland has been performed at a Long Island-based hospital for the first time. Shahriyour Andaz, MD, director of thoracic oncology at South Nassau Communities Hospital, performed the procedure on a 49 year-old patient who had been diagnosed with a two-centimeter, PET-positive mass in the thymus gland.

“If I had not used the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System, the procedure would have been a traditional sternotomy, which requires a large vertical incision to break open the sternum, at least three hours to complete, and a lengthy post-operative recovery,” said Dr. Andaz.

Instead, Dr. Andaz needed just four small incisions on the left side of the chest to insert a small scope and pencil-thin robotic assisted surgical instruments. The scope provides a three-dimensional view of the surgical field on high definition monitors, while the surgical tools were used by Dr. Andaz to remove the thymus gland. The procedure took about 90 minutes and the patient was discharged from the hospital two days after the surgery.

The thymus is composed of two identical lobes and is located in front of the heart and behind the sternum. It is a specialized organ in the immune system that produces T-lymphocytes (T cells), which are critical cells of the adaptive immune system and in the production and secretion of thymosins (hormones which control T-lymphocyte activities and various other aspects of the immune system). Treatable yet serious diseases of the thymus include Myasthenia Gravis (an autoimmune neuromuscular disease involving weakness of the skeletal or voluntary muscles) and thymoma or lymphoma cancer. The treatment option of choice for thymus disorders that do not respond to conservative medication therapies is surgery to remove the entire gland. Removing the thymus does not increase the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.

The number of robotic-assisted procedures performed at hospitals around the world has increased from 80,000 in 2007 to 205,000 in 2009. Recognized as the world’s most advanced robotic surgical technology, the da Vinci received its name in recognition and honor of Leonardo da Vinci, who invented the first robot and used incomparable accuracy and three-dimensional details to bring his masterpieces to life. In like fashion, the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System helps surgeons perform complex surgeries with refined dexterity, precision and control, through small incisions. In addition to the precision and control, benefits for surgeons include increased range of motion, enhanced visualization and improved access. Patient benefits of robotic-assisted surgery include a shorter hospital stay; reduced pain and risk of infection; less blood loss and scarring; fewer transfusions; faster post-operative recovery; and a quicker return to normal daily activities.

Robotic-assisted surgery is most commonly used to treat men diagnosed with early prostate cancer. Dr. Andaz and other South Nassau surgeons also use the da Vinci to perform general, urologic, gynecologic, kidney and chest procedures.

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