Medical Minute 11-8: Robot Rebuilds Throats

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

He's a firefighter, a cook, and a cancer survivor, but Tom Scaccia's most important title is Grandpa.

"You see those two babies, those are my granddaughters. I'm not in the ground, so every morning I get up I see them, that's the important part," said Tom Scaccia.

He had a tumor in his tongue that spread to his throat. Chemo and 33 radiation treatments destroyed the tumor and most of his throat.

"That was the hard part not being able to eat, I fed myself through a tube in my stomach," said Tom Scaccia.

Doctors decided to reconstruct his throat using skin, tissue and blood vessels from his forearm. A massive operation.

"You'd have to split the lip in the middle you'd have to split the jaw, open it up like a book just to get there," said Richard V. Smith, M.D., F.A.C.S., Professor and Vice-Chair of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Instead, Doctors Richard Smith and Evan Garfein used a robot to rebuild Tom's throat. The robot's arms went through Tom's mouth. With surgeons at the controls, they removed the dead tissue. Through a small incision in the neck, they inserted the healthy skin and tissue from Tom's forearm.

"The tissue there is very thin and pliable which is good for the base of the tongue it doesn't interfere with swallowin or speaking," said Evan Garfein, M.D., Montefiore Medical Center.

It means a three-inch incision instead of splitting the jaw. One day in the hospital instead of three- weeks and one-month recovery instead of three. A couple of months after surgery, Tom's back in the driver's seat. Not exactly fighting fires yet, but another very important job at the fire house.

"Some macaronis with pork sauce," commented Scaccia.

A grateful grandpa, enjoying every bite.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT: Anne McDarbyPublic RelationsMontefiore Medical Center(718) 920-8274amcdarby@montefiore.org


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