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BMC First in New England for Pioneering Lung Cancer Surgery

BMC thoracic surgeons offer new minimally invasive robotic procedure for lung cancer.
A new minimally invasive robotic procedure provides an alternative for
some lung cancer patients that are not candidates for traditional surgery.

Boston Medical Center's thoracic surgeons are now offering patients a new minimally invasive procedure for lung cancer. This procedure, known as port access robotic lobectomy, requires only small incisions to remove cancerous tumors and offers faster recovery times and less post-operative pain than more standard operations for lung cancer. BMC is the first hospital in New England to perform robotic operations for thoracic diseases such as lung cancer.

Although surgeons have been performing lung cancer resections using video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) for more than a decade, using a robot for the procedure is a relatively new development.

"Traditional video-assisted thoracic surgery instruments allow only up and down movements and some limited rotation," explains Michael Ebright, MD, co-director of BMC's Lung Cancer Cyberknife program and an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Boston University School of Medicine. "Robotic instruments allow several more degrees of freedom of movement thus mimicking the complex movement of the hand and wrist. Additionally, these movements occur directly inside the chest cavity rather than at the ribs."

During the procedure, surgeons use a computer-controlled device that moves, positions and manipulates surgical tools based on his or her movements. The computer console provides a three-dimensional view of the patient's chest that is magnified 10 times greater than normal vision. The surgeon's hands control the robotic arms to perform the procedure. The robotic approach minimizes pressure on the nerves that run along each rib and may result in decreased post-operative pain.

"We believe that the robot may have an even greater advantage over VATS for patients undergoing lung cancer surgery," adds Hiran Fernando, MBBS, FRCS, director of BMC's Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery Program as well as director of the Center for Minimally Invasive Esophageal Therapies.

Traditionally lung cancer resections have been done via an open incision or thoracotomy. This incision can be painful because it involves cutting through muscle and spreading the ribs. According to the surgeons, if pain following surgery is not adequately managed, patients may face an increased risk of developing pneumonia as they can find it difficult to cough and clear their lungs of secretions.

In addition to using a robotic approach to remove lung cancer, BMC surgeons are also treating some esophageal and mediastinal diseases.

BMC's comprehensive lung cancer program has earned an international reputation with physicians who are distinguished as national leaders, researchers and experts in care of patients at all stages of the disease. The hospital's patient-centered, multidisciplinary approach assures each patient benefits from the collaborative expertise of physicians uniquely focused on their individual needs. For more information, visit BMC's Center for Thoracic Oncology.