To confirm the merits of robotic thyroid surgery by comparing the surgical outcomes of robotic-assisted and conventional endoscopic thyroidectomy in papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC) patients.
Robot-assisted surgical techniques are widely utilized, and substantially, overcome the limitations of conventional endoscopic surgery. Furthermore, recently, robotic procedures were introduced to the thyroidectomy field.
From November 2001 to July 2009, 1150 patients with PTMC underwent endoscopic thyroidectomy using a gasless, trans-axillary approach. Of these patients, 580 underwent a robotic procedure (the robotic group; RG) and 570 a conventional endoscopic procedure (the conventional endoscopic group; EG). These 2 groups were retrospectively compared in terms of their clinicopathologic characteristics, early surgical outcomes, and surgical completeness.
Total thyroidectomy was performed more frequently in the RG. Although mean operation times were not statistically different, the mean number of central nodes retrieved was greater in the RG than in the EG. Mean tumor size were not significantly different in the 2 groups, but the RG showed more frequent central node metastasis and capsular invasion. Tumor and nodal statuses in the RG were more advanced than in the EG. Regarding postoperative complications, transient hypocalcemia was more frequent in the RG, but other complication frequencies were not significantly different in the 2 groups. Postoperative serum thyroglobulin levels were similar in 2 groups, and short-term follow-up (1 year) revealed no recurrence by sonography and no abnormal uptake during radioactive iodine therapy in either group.
The application of robotic technology to endoscopic thyroidectomy could overcome the limitations of conventional endoscopic surgery during the surgical management of PTMC.