New technologies have the potential to improve patient outcomes but need to be carefully studied so that patients will maximally benefit. Robotic thymectomy for myasthenia gravis and thymomas was introduced at Swedish in May of 2009 after careful evaluation of our outcomes with traditional sternotomy and VATS thymectomy.
One of the more challenging aspects of being a surgeon is to understand how new technologies can benefit your patients and how those technologies might become part of your practice. If you’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy, read Time magazine or the Wall Street Journal or surfed the web recently, you’ll be aware of the da Vinci surgical robot. The robot has allowed many different surgical specialties to operate in confined areas of the body with tiny instruments placed through equally small incisions thereby avoiding a larger incision. In thoracic surgery, one of the confined spaces is an area in front of the heart where a gland called the thymus resides.
Most people don’t even realize they have a thymus nor do they know it’s responsible for the development of immunity. However, for a small number of patients the thymus can be source of disease either by generating a tumor called a thymoma or by producing antibodies that block transmission of nerve impulses making the patient fatigue or weaken very quickly which is called myasthenia gravis (MG). Removing the thymus gland (thymectomy) is an important part of the treatment in both diseases.
Traditionally, thymectomy is accomplished ...