Is Scarless Thyroid Surgery Right for You?

Robotic surgery hides scars, gets results

woman holding her neck talking to doctor

If you are facing thyroid surgery, you might be concerned about having a visible scar on your neck afterward. But a new surgical technique is available that leaves no scar on the neck, and in some cases, may result in an easier recovery after surgery.

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How does it work?

Endocrine surgeon Eren Berber, MD, says that instead of accessing the thyroid through an incision in your neck, a surgeon using this technique can reach the thyroid through a small cut in your armpit.

Using a special tool called an elevated retractor, the surgeon lifts the tissue along your chest, creating a tunnel. The surgeon performs the procedure using robotic arms inserted through the tunnel and watches their movements, magnified tenfold, on a monitor. 

One incision instead of two

The technique for scarless robotic thyroid surgery has been refined to allow a whole thyroid gland to be removed through a single armpit incision – an advancement over making an incision in both armpits.

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“To use just one incision is more technically demanding,” says Dr. Berber, “but it makes for a more comfortable recovery for our patients.”

Traditional surgery vs. scarless technique

Though scarless surgery might sound appealing, it isn’t right for everyone, cautions Dr. Berber.

“I consider this to be more invasive than traditional surgery, because of the large tunnel through which the surgery must be performed,” he says. “The only advantage is that the incision is unseen.”

 Good candidates for scarless thyroid surgery:

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  • Are at a normal body weight, as this type of surgery can’t be performed on people who are overweight

For example, the robotic surgical technique can be used to remove thyroid nodules smaller than 3 cm, or to remove thyroid cancer less than 2 cm that is limited to the thyroid and there is no evidence of spread outside the thyroid.

What’s the recovery like?

The recovery from scarless robotic thyroid surgery is similar to traditional surgical methods. Most people go home the day after surgery, and can return to work after two to three weeks.
To find out whether you are a candidate for scarless robotic thyroid surgery, talk with your doctor.

More information

Cleveland Clinic Thyroid Center

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