Man with larynx cancer regains speech thanks to groundbreaking robot technology

Doctor Completes His 100th Robotic Surgery
This doctor isn't the only one participating in groundbreaking medical procedures -- because of this life-saving technology, Trevor Bennett, who was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx, was given a new voice.

When go-to treatments weren't helping to cure his illness, he learned of one of the newest ways to perform surgical procedures. Bennett was going to get surgery from a robot, with the help of doctors Suresh Mahendran and Roger Grigg, as well as Professor Suren Krishnan, widely regarded as a leader in robotic ear, nose & throat surgery.

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Like anyone would be in his situation, Bennett was afraid of becoming so vulnerable to such an unfamiliar technology. "But I had faith in the doctors," he said.

Surgeons in Toowoomba have used a robot to remove a larynx and insert a voice valve at the same time, in what is being... Posted by ABC Southern Queensland on Wednesday, December 9, 2015
The reason the surgeons suggested robotic intervention was because of the precision and intrusion necessary for Bennett's particular laryngectomy. While the surgeons still control the surgery, they are doing it digitally. Using hand controllers and foot pedals, the doctors are able to manipulate six robotic arms, which have access to the surgical instruments.

"It mimics exactly what our hand movements are, but it allows a greater range of movement," said Dr. Mahendran. "Using the robot means you're not cutting through nerves in the skin."

This kind of accuracy that comes with the robotic technology made it possible to help Bennett regain his speaking voice without leaving as many external scars. Relearning how to speak will require working with a speech pathologist and, in order to talk as of now, Bennett must hold a finger over his stoma. Nevertheless, he has not lost sight of the often under-appreciated opportunity to talk.
This surgery in Toowoomba is the fourth of its kind in all of Australia.

"We think it's important that a high standard of care is available in a regional centre," said Dr. Grigg. "Now other places are learning from our experience, and we think we can't see any reason why we don't become a major leader in Australia for robotic surgery."

Bennett is so grateful for the opportunity to have a new voice that when he went back to visit the robot (and doctors) that worked on him, dubbed the 'DaVinci Robot," and gave it a hug.

For more on the precision of robotic surgery, check out the video below:
Robotic Wrist Performs Surgery With No Scars
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