Variations and results of retroauricular robotic thyroid surgery associated or not with neck dissection

Renan Bezerra Lira, Thiago Celestino Chulam, Luiz Paulo Kowalski


Background: Technological advances in the last decades allowed significant evolution in head and neck surgery toward less invasive procedures, with better esthetic and functional outcomes, without compromising oncologic soundness. Although robotic thyroid surgery has been performed for some years now and several published series reported its safety and feasibility, it remains the center of significant controversy. This study shows the results of a case series of robotic thyroid surgery, combined or not with robotic neck dissection.
Methods: A retrospective cohort including 48 cases of robotic thyroid surgery with or without neck dissection, using retroauricular or combined approaches, performed in a tertiary cancer center, comprised the study.
Results: Between 2015 and 2017, we performed 2,769 thyroid surgical procedures, of which 48 (1.7%) were robot-assisted, in 46 patients [26 hemithyroidectomies, 7 total thyroidectomies, and 12 total thyroidectomies (or totalization) with selective neck dissection (SND) II–VI; and 3 neck dissections for thyroid carcinoma]. There were 43 (89.6%) women, and the median age was 35 years. The mean hospital stay was 1.9 days. In 3 (6.2%) cases, drains were not placed (hemithyroidectomies), whereas the other 45 (93.8%) cases had a mean drain stay of 4.4 days (range, 1–9 days). The console time (robotic thyroid resection and neck dissection) ranged from 11 to 200 min (mean 66.1 min; median 40 min), and the total operating room time ranged from 80 to 440 min (mean 227.9 min; median 170 min). Three (6.2%) patients had transient vocal cord paresis. Transient hypocalcemia was reported in three cases (6.2%). There were 30 carcinomas (62.5%), and the mean number of retrieved lymph nodes (LNs) (considering only cases that included robotic neck dissection) was 27.2 (range, 17–40). The mean follow-up time was 17.4 months (range, 1.4–31.9 months), and no recurrence was diagnosed.
Conclusions: The quality outcomes and complication rates are comparable to the conventional approaches. Therefore, robotic thyroidectomy can be an option for selected patients that are motivated to avoid a visible neck scar, treated in high-volume centers. For the patients who require lateral neck dissection, the retroauricular robotic approach could be even more attractive, especially for young patients.