NEW ORLEANS -- A local hospital is bringing surgeons to New Orleans who are on the cutting edge of the latest technology.
One doctor is performing a surgery that few others in the U.S. are doing. It's a surgery that is nearly painless and leaves no visible scar.
Jamie Runyan, 32, was a college athlete who is still in great shape. But not long ago, two lumps were discovered in her neck
"I had actually gone to an ear, nose and throat doctor for another concern, and he noticed a lump on my neck and asked about it," she said.
After an ultrasound and needle biopsy. the doctor said they needed to come out. One the size of a golf ball, the other an olive. They were sitting on one side of her thyroid gland.
"She had an enlarging nodule that started to grow over time and recently started to grow faster, and sometimes when they start to grow faster, they cause difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing. Sometimes, this is not the case in her, but also sometimes hoarseness of voice," said Dr. Emad Kandil, chief of endocrine surgery at Tulane.
The thyroid is a very important gland that is shaped like a butterfly. It sits in front of the wind pipe and makes hormones that are very important for all sorts of metabolism throughout the body.
But one side of Jamie's thyroid needed to be surgically removed. Little did she know, at first, that she had one of the few and top surgeons in the country who could surgically remove it with new technology.
"This $2 million baby will provide a very small camera that will give us a good visualization," said Dr. Kandil referencing the da Vinci surgical robot.
Instead of the traditional horizontal scar 4 inches long on the front of her neck, Kandil used the robot called the da Vinci. It's been used for 10 years now, especially in prostate surgery. But just months ago, it was FDA cleared for thyroid removal.
But here's what's unusual. What Kandil did was make a small incision in the underarm area. Then the camera and grasping instruments are tunneled under the skin to the neck. He said using the robot is actually easier and safer and more precise than having his own fingers and hands in the neck from the front. There are many more benefits than avoiding a visible scar.
"Because the robotic camera will provide the 3-D vision and the 10 times magnification, the likelihood of injuring the nearby structures, including the nerves that goes into the voice box or the very, very small parathyroid gland, should be significantly less. Additionally, most of the patients, in my experience, have had significantly less pain. Some patients did not require any pain medicine after the operation," Kandil said.
Recently 100 doctors came in from all over the world to watch and learn what Kandil does. He's even modified this surgery to make it safer. He constantly monitors and stimulates the nerves during surgery to make sure he is not injuring or stretching one that could create temporary or permanent damage to the voice box.
"It's really amazing. It's very dazzling. You're literally inside the patient," he said.
Jamie was home the next morning with no pain and only a little stiffness.
"I was up and about, very soon after the procedure. I had my mother come into town, to help take care of my dog actually, while I was down and we were up and about three days later, going out to dinner and showing her the town and walking down Bourbon Street, " said Runyan.
And more good news. Her tumors were both benign.
Patients who want this new kind of thyroid surgery are traveling to Tulane from all over the U.S. and Central America. It was FDA approved last summer.