Hypopharyngeal applications of a new flexible robotic system in otolaryngology

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Robotic Surgery








© 2017, Springer-Verlag London Ltd. This case report describes the use a new flexible robotic system in otolaryngology, the FlexRobot® for cricopharyngeal myotomy in cadaver dissections, and for the treatment of a patient with esophageal stenosis and secondary dysphagia and dysphonia. The Flexrobot® facilitates access to the hypopharynx with increased proximity to the surgical field and improved optics, allowing more exact dilatation and injection in our patient. It also would allow surgeons to reach deep inside the cavity of the hypopharynx into anatomical regions that are typically inaccessible without an open approach, as shown in our cadaveric procedure, where full exposure of the posterior aspect of the cricopharyngeus and isolation of the muscle belly were achieved. While esophageal dysmotility can be treated through botulinum toxin injection and esophageal dilation as demonstrated in our patient, for longer term results, operative cricopharyngeal myotomy is superior. Surgical complications include infection, hematoma, mucosal damage, fistula, and recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis. While endoscopic procedures avoid the risk of recurrent laryngeal nerve or great vessel injury and lower the risk of perforation and fistula, they create the potential for mediastinitis as a consequence of opening the pharyngoesophageal muscosa and violating the buccopharyngeal fascia. Based on the cadaveric procedure, we believe that the robotic approach would reduce the risk of mediastinitis as a result of better visualization of the buccopharyngeal fascia and the robot’s precise instrument control.

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