A Futuristic Tonsil Surgery
For many patients, a tonsillectomy is a routine procedure. That's because most patients are having the easily accessible palatine tonsils removed. But when it's the much deeper, tough-to-reach lingual tonsils that are inflamed, the situation is more complicated. That's where the Flex® Robotic System comes in. This device is changing the way complex throat surgeries are performed.
Back in July 2017, Kristin Edwards had never heard of a Flex® Robotic System. All she knew is that she was getting some alarmingly bad sore throats. "My throat would swell up and it would be hard to breathe," the 23-year-old remembers. The first time she rushed to the emergency room, she was told she was having a panic attack and was sent home. "I knew it wasn't a panic attack, but I didn't know what was wrong," says Kristin.
The Start of a Long Journey
After a CT scan of her neck revealed that her lingual tonsils (located in the very back of the tongue) were severely inflamed, Kristin began a battle that would last for many months. "I went through eight or nine rounds of oral steroids, plus two rounds of IV steroids trying to get the inflammation under control," she says. And while the swelling would go down, as soon as she finished a course of treatment, the tonsils immediately became inflamed again.
Another ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist she saw tried treating her with allergy medications in an attempt to reduce the inflammation. But in the end, nothing worked, and it seemed like surgery might be the only option.
The Flex® Robotic System to the Rescue
By the time Kristin found her way to the office of Daniel Karakla, M.D., Eastern Virginia Medical School Head and Neck Surgeon at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, she was more than ready to have her tonsils surgically removed. "I had been dissuaded from conventional surgery because apparently this area is very difficult to reach, making it hard to remove all of the infected tissue," she says. But Dr. Karakla told her about a new technology—the Flex® Robotic System by Medrobotics.
This device features a flexible, tube-like arm rather than a rigid, straight scope. This flexibility allows the device to navigate its way along circuitous routes inside the body to reach places that would have formerly required much more invasive surgery to access.
There was just one thing: Kristin would be the very first patient operated on at Sentara using the Flex® Robotic System. "Dr. Karakla described the procedure, explaining that this device would allow him to get back there and remove a lot more tissue than he could any other way," says Kristin. "He made it sound easy peasy, and I thought it sounded kind of cool!"
Dr. Karakla told Kristin she would have about a two-week recovery period after surgery. "It all went exactly like he described," she says. "There were no surprises, no issues with bleeding and the recovery was definitely easier than I thought it would be." But the best part of all is the results. "I haven't had a problem with my throat since the surgery," she says. "It's been six months, and not a single sore throat."