Transoral robotic surgery: implementation as a tool in head and neck surgery - a single-centre Australian experience

ANZ J Surg. 2018 Nov;88(11):1129-1134. doi: 10.1111/ans.13801. Epub 2016 Oct 21.


Background: Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) is now a well-validated technique for resection of head and neck cancers. Benefits include reduced patient morbidity, swallowing preservation and rationalization of adjuvant therapies.

Methods: This was a single-centre, retrospective review of 35 patients who underwent TORS of oro-, retro- and parapharyngeal tumours between March 2014 and August 2015. Outcome measures included resection margins, swallowing function and impact on post-operative radiotherapy.

Results: Median age was 63.7 years and the number of male patients was 22 (62.9%). Tongue base was the most common site (51.4%), followed by tonsil (25.7%). Nine patients (25.7%) had previous radiotherapy. A total of 24 patients had squamous cell carcinoma and the clear margin rate for primary TORS was 93.3%. Median hospital stay was 5.5 days, longer for previously irradiated patients (9 days). Median nasogastric tube dependence was 3.5 days. Four patients (11.4%) received a gastrostomy and two patients remained dependent on the tube at the time of last review. There were two major complications (5.7%): bleeding requiring return to theatre (1) and pulmonary embolism (1). Post-operative radiotherapy was either avoided or reduced in 22 patients (81.5%).

Conclusion: TORS is a safe and effective tool, providing surgical access to oropharyngeal and other difficult to access areas. Patient selection and a multidisciplinary approach are essential to ensure adequate margins can be achieved and therefore to reduce adjuvant therapies.

Keywords: head and neck; salvage; squamous cell carcinoma; transoral robotic surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Margins of Excision
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome