da Vinci Head and Neck Surgery

Also known as: TORS, TransOral Robotic Surgery,

TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS) allows surgeons to access tumors through the mouth that previously required an extensive operation with an incision through the neck and lip.  Surgeons can excise and resect tumors through the mouth rather than using a large incision.

Providence Cancer Center surgeons at Providence Portland Medical Cancer were among the first in the country to perform TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS) using the da Vinci Surgical System, which was approved by the The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January 2010 to remove malignant and benign tumors of the mouth, tongue, tonsils and parts of the throat. Unlike traditional surgical approaches to head and neck cancer, TORS patients are able to return to their normal lives only a few days after surgery without significant pain and disfigurement.

Prior to TORS, patients would traditionally begin treatment with radiation therapy, or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, depending on the stage of their cancer. Side effects of radiation – dry mouth, loss of taste and difficulty swallowing – can potentially be avoided with TORS.

Traditional surgery has side effects as well. It requires a long incision be made across the lip and jaw to access the tumor. This approach can result in significant swelling, longer post-operative recovery, damage to surrounding structures and speech and swallowing problems.

With TORS, surgeons can access tumors through the mouth using the slender operating arms of the da Vinci, thus not requiring an open skin incision. Some of TORS's other benefits include:

  • Significantly less blood loss
  • No visible scarring
  • Possibility of avoiding a tracheostomy
  • Minimization or elimination of need for chemoradiation therapy 
  • Fewer complications and shorter hospital stay
  • Faster recovery, return to normal speech and swallowing
  • Equivalent cancer control to radiation therapy  

Patients with early stage tonsil and base of tongue cancers may not need to receive radiation therapy following TORS, depending on the final tumor margins and pathological characteristics of the tumor. If radiation therapy is required, then often it is delivered at a lower dose, which has been shown to result in fewer side effects.

To find out more about the TORS procedure, speak with one of our Providence Oral, Head and Neck surgeons.