Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS)

Ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeons at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin perform robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgical procedures (transoral robotic surgery) for certain types of throat and larnyx cancer.

What is transoral robotic surgery (TORS)?

Transoral robotic surgery is a minimally invasive surgical procedure for removing cancers of the tonsils, tongue base and larynx utilizing the Da Vinci robot.

Who is a candidate for transoral robotic surgery? 

Not all patients with cancers of the tonsil, tongue base or larynx are candidates for this procedure. Transoral robotic surgery is only offered if it has the potential of reducing side effects of treatment compared to other available treatment options. The decision to offer transoral robotic surgery or recommend another form of treatment is best made by experienced head and neck surgeons and an established multidisciplinary head and neck cancer team.

How does robotic surgery work? 

The robot uses three arms.  A central arm has a binocular high resolution camera and the two side arms then serve as the working "hands" of the robot. These hands are much smaller than human hands and allow movements and skills not otherwise possible. The surgeon is seated at a counsel where he or she directs the movement of these hands and in this way, performs the operation. Your surgeon is still performing the operation, but using these robotic hands rather than his or her human hands.

What are the benefits for people undergoing transoral robotic surgery?

Transoral robotic surgery has the ability to remove tumors in a more efficient fashion than in traditional open operations. As a result, recovery and ultimate patient function and appearance can be much improved.

Will I have visible scars?

Transoral robotic surgery produces no external scars but is often combined with removal of lymph nodes from the neck, which can leave a single scar on the neck. Every effort is made to make this scar as inconspicuous as possible.

Are there side effects or complications due to robotic surgery? 

The primary side effects of surgery include an initial period of discomfort much like a tonsillectomy, and also a small risk of bleeding after surgery. Long-term problems with speech and swallowing after transoral robotic surgery are usually minor.

How long is recovery?

Recovery following transoral robotic surgery is significantly shorter compared to open procedures, with patients experiencing fewer side effects and returning to normal activities sooner. Patients should contact their physician with further questions about what to expect.

Does insurance pay for transoral robotic surgery?

Yes, most insurance companies cover this procedure if you qualify.