Transoral Robotic Surgery


The field of Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS) has rapidly developed over the previous decade within the field of head and neck surgical oncology and provides a minimally invasive approach for removal of cancer within the throat, particularly the tonsils and base of tongue. This approach is made possible and performed with the da Vinci Surgical System.

The surgery is performed by using a high-definition, 3D surgical camera placed into the mouth for significantly improved visualization of the tumor and surrounding tissues. In addition, miniature robotic cutting and grasping instruments are also placed through the mouth providing superior precision, dexterity and control, thereby enabling unprecedented access to these difficult-to-reach areas.

The surgeon sits at the “robot” console enabling control of both the camera and instruments, ultimately providing the capability to safely remove tumors of the oropharynx (back of the mouth and throat) without the disfiguring and traumatic aspects of traditional open surgery. Furthermore, this surgical approach may also minimize or eliminate the need for chemoradiation and its known side-effects, as well as improve swallowing outcomes in comparison to alternative treatment strategies.

Quinn Dunlap, MD, is trained in the performance of TORS and has brought this skillset to The University of Tennessee Medical Center.

If you have been diagnosed with a cancer of the oropharynx, you may be a candidate for TORS as a safe, effective, and minimally invasive procedure. While technological advances have made this procedure possible, limits do still exist with regard to adequate exposure for tumor removal, meaning this approach may not be possible for all cases and thus should only be employed in appropriately selected patients. This is best determined by consultation and evaluation by a TORS surgeon.

Benefits of TORS

Potential benefits of TORS surgery over traditional open surgery:

  • Decreased blood loss
  • No tracheotomy
  • Decrease in incision size and thus scarring
  • Minimize or eliminate the need for radiation therapy
  • Eliminate the need for chemotherapy
  • Fewer complications and shorter hospital stay
  • Improved speech and swallowing outcomes
  • Cost efficiency (reduction in OR time, necessary staff, instruments utilized)