Dr. Uma Duvvuri is the head of the Center for Robotic Surgery as part of the Department of Otolaryngology. Dr. Duvvuri is currently investigating new ways to utilize robotic equipment to perform difficult procedures with minimal invasiveness and far less trauma than traditional head and neck cancer surgeries. In the past, procedures to remove tumors in the back of the throat or base of the skull required highly invasive movements, that sometimes including breaking open the jaw, removing large parts of the neck or skull, and otherwise leaving large, visible scars, and related physical difficulties. Robotic surgery, however, removes these difficulties by using delicate tools that can weave through natural passageways in the body to more delicately remove tumors.
Robotic surgery, overall, has been an effective adjunctive to traditional surgery in that it requires fewer incisions, involves less swelling, and can far more easily reach hard to approach areas like the back of the throat and base of the neck. By using extremely small instruments, and sensitive controls, surgeons are able to maneuver through difficult to reach locations, including the back of the neck and throat, essentially reducing the obstacles between the surgeon and the tumor. High technology built into the surgical robot also help eliminate the natural tremor in the surgeons’ hands, increase dexterity by providing the ability to turn and twist in ways human joints could not, and provide enhanced vision through a 3D camera.
Robotic surgery is not just for head and neck surgery, either. Procedures can provide treatment for sleep apnea, reconstructive defects from past head and neck procedures, and increase the chances of correctly identifying tumors in the throat by 250% over traditional methods. The Center for Robotic Surgery at UPMC is among the leading robotic surgery centers in the nation, and was the first center in the region to offer these cutting edge surgical treatments to people with thyroid and parathyroid diseases.
The DaVinci robot is the only FDA approved surgical robot in the world, and the robotic surgery team here in Pittsburgh is dedicated to not only using it to its fullest extent, but also to improve upon it. To that extent, they have set up a collaboration with the Biorobotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University to innovate and develop robotic technologies to improve upon patient care and technical effectiveness.