Retropharyngeal lymph node (RPLN) metastases can occur from advanced head and neck malignancies. Surgical access to RPLNs can be challenging. Considering the more aggressive conventional approach methods, there is an increasing need for minimally invasive techniques. Applying transoral robotic surgery (TORS) to access the RPLN has never been reported in the literature. The purpose of this study was to describe our experience with transoral robotic RPLN dissection for oropharyngeal and hypopharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas. We conducted a retrospective review of TORS cases performed at Severance Hospital, a tertiary care medical center from December 2011 to July 2012. Demographic, clinicopathologic, and treatment characteristics were abstracted from the medical record as well as complications and were analyzed descriptively. A total of 5 TORS procedures with transoral robotic RPLN dissection have been performed at Severance Hospital. Of these, 4 patients were treated for oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma and 1 for hypopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. The mean operation time for TORS including the robotic RPLN dissection was 84 ± 18.5 minutes. The operation time included time for docking of the robotic arms (4.8 ± 1.3 minutes), console working time for primary tumor removal (50 ± 8.9 minutes), and console working time for RPLN dissection (29.2 ± 9.4 minutes). No patients experienced complications related to the transoral robotic RPLN dissection. Transoral robotic RPLN dissection is a feasible approach for accessing retropharyngeal lymph nodes. This particular operative technique can serve as a minimal invasive surgery in removing pathologic RPLNs.
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