CONTACT US   |  (864) 397-5101

Hollings Cancer Center surgeons introduce da Vinci single port robotic system in South Carolina for head and neck cancer care

Hollings Cancer Center

Courtesy of Charleston Regional Business Journal

Doctors with MUSC Hollings Cancer Center are the first in South Carolina to perform head and neck cancer surgery with the da Vinci SP, a single port robotic system.

The new system gives patients more options for care, particularly patients with HPV-related cancers that are often caught at early stages and can be treated with surgery.

“It really has revolutionized our ability to treat this area,” said Alexandra Kejner, M.D. She was the first head and neck surgeon in South Carolina to use the new robot, though it wasn’t her first outing with the system. She was also the first to use it in Kentucky and agreed to join MUSC Health last year only with the promise that a da Vinci SP was on the way.

“It’s like dial-up compared to broadband,” she said, comparing the robot previously in use to the new one.

W. Greer Albergotti, M.D., who has also now used the system, called it a “huge advancement.”

“It gives us a much closer, magnified view of the tumor and the surrounding normal anatomy that we want to make sure to avoid,” he said. “Overall, it’s a leap forward for the quality of surgery that we’re able to provide to patients in South Carolina.”

In robotic surgery, “ports,” or incisions, are made to insert the robotic instruments and camera into the surgical area – in the head and neck this means the mouth, without any external incisions. The surgeon then controls the instruments from a console rather than standing over the patient. Previously, surgeons used a robot that had three arms – one for a camera and two for instruments. That’s a lot to fit in someone’s mouth, Kejner pointed out, and it wasn’t feasible for every patient or every tumor. In addition, the camera was attached to a rigid endoscope. It could move forward or backward, but it couldn’t snake around the contours of the throat.

The da Vinci SP single port system uses only one arm, and the instruments and camera all emerge from that single arm. In addition, the camera is on a flexible endoscope that the surgeons can manipulate to look up, down and around.

Kejner anticipates that the system will be especially useful for patients with HPV-caused cancers. These patients tend to be younger and are likely to do well after treatment, she said, and they may want to avoid potential long-term side effects of other types of treatment, like radiation. Additionally, the system can be used as salvage surgery for patients for whom chemotherapy and radiation have failed and reduces the potential morbidity of larger, open procedures.

Join now to enjoy expanded member benefits!

Enjoy exclusive member content, special events, savings, networking and more

Tamia Sumpter

Tamia is a driven senior undergraduate Bioengineering student currently enrolled at Clemson University. With a strong foundation in her field, she has honed her skills through hands-on experience in research and development at Eli Lilly & Company. During her time in the ADME department, Tamia contributed significantly by working on siRNAs and their applications in finding In Vitro-In Vivo Correlation (IVIVC). Looking ahead, Tamia has set her sights on a promising career in law. She aspires to specialize in Intellectual Property Law, with a particular focus on serving as in-house counsel for leading medical device or pharmaceutical companies. Her enthusiasm for this role is palpable as she prepares to embark on her legal journey! She is also a proud member of the Omicron Phi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., PEER Mentor for Clemson PEER/WiSE, and currently serves as the President of Clemson Bioengineering Organization (CBO). With her unique blend of scientific knowledge and legal interests, Tamia is poised to make a meaningful impact in the healthcare and life sciences industries.