First Transoral Robotic Surgery Performed at WakeMed by Dr. James T. O’Neil

Dr. James T. O'Neil

Minimally invasive surgery can provide multiple patient benefits, and in the area of head and neck surgery, this statement presents no exception.  That’s why our system is thrilled that surgeon James T. O’Neil, MD, of Wake Specialty Physicians/WakeMed Faculty Physicians: ENT – Head & Neck Surgery performed WakeMed’s first-ever transoral robotic surgery (TORS) this August.  And the patient is doing great.

In the past, removal of a benign or malignant tumor in the back of the mouth or larynx would require a complex open, morbid surgery leading to months of recovery.  But using the da Vinci® Surgical System, surgeons like Dr. O’Neil can perform a minimally invasive surgery with a long list of potential patient benefits, including less blood loss, no visible scarring, no trachemotomy, a low rate of complications, a much shorter hospital stay, a faster recovery, and a much quicker return to normal speech and swallowing.  The surgery can also lead to a decreased risk of permanent PEG tube placement and a minimized need for chemoradiation therapy. 

“I really believe in this surgery.  My goal is to continue to offer patients who are dealing with a benign or malignant tumor of the head and neck an alternative option to large, open surgeries and radiation therapy,” explained Dr. O’Neil.  “Research has shown that up to 50 percent of these patients can avoid all radiation therapy after receiving TORS.  Plus, the post-operative benefits are very impressive.  Instead of months of recovery and radiation therapy for around six weeks, patients are often looking at a three-hour procedure and a three-day hospital stay.”

The WakeMed da Vinci surgical robot prior to TORS procedure

According to Dr. O’Neil, the da Vinci surgical robot allows a surgeon to enter the patient’s mouth using enhanced 3D HD visualization that creates more precise dissection.  By targeting the tumor directly, the surgeon can leave the surrounding muscles and mucosa unaffected – something that is not possible with radiation therapy.  While the da Vinci robot was originally intended for the areas of urology and OB/GYN, it has now become an excellent solution for minimally invasive head and neck surgery.  WakeMed has owned the da Vinci surgical robot since 2004 and acquired a second da Vinci in 2007. 

Dr. O’Neil also explained that TORS can be an option for select obstructive sleep apnea patients. Prior to joining WakeMed, Dr. O’Neil performed 20 TORS procedures at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.  In addition to TORS, he offers the full complement of ENT services, including treatment of pediatric patients, sinus disease, diseases of the thyroid/parathyroid and allergies.

Read more about Dr. O’Neil and Wake Specialty Physicians – ENT – Head & Neck Surgery here.

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