Health Team

Robot removes tumors at UNC

Posted August 31, 2010
Updated September 1, 2010

— On Aug. 9, Gabrielle Gutierrez, 15, of Jacksonville, was a patient in a new type of surgery at UNC Hospitals.

Last March, the teen noticed pain in her throat and had difficulty speaking and swallowing.

“When she first got sick, we were thinking strep, mono - you know, just the childhood things that eventually come about,” her mother Katherine Gutierrez said.

But CAT scans revealed a large tumor. Though not cancerous, it was still serious because it was blocking Gabrielle’s airway.

UNC otolaryngology surgeons Dr. Adam Zanation and Dr. Carlton Zdanski used the DaVinci Robot to remove the tumor in her neck.

Zanation said the standard surgical option is more involved. An incision is made down the lip and into the neck. The jawbone is then cut.

“I couldn't imagine her having to be cut,” Gutierrez said.

Gabrielle Gutierrez Robot helps perform surgeries at UNC

Instead, everything was done through the mouth.

The surgeon sits at a separate console, controlling the robot's arms, and uses a laser to cut into the tongue and remove the tumor.

Gabrielle went home in two days.

“The recovery time was like really easy. I wasn't even on pain medication the second day, which is really cool,” she said.

Since March, UNC surgeons have used the robotic approach on eight adult patients removing cancerous tumors from their necks.

Doctors believe Gabrielle's case was the first such operation in a child in North Carolina.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Whatever Geez Sep 3, 2010


  • wildcat Sep 3, 2010

    Science is amazing!

  • tgcmisc Aug 31, 2010

    As someone who had his prostate removed by the DaVinci robot and a very skilled surgeon (who is a video game whiz...just kidding), I can tell you that it is a wonderful device.

    For more information, google Intuitive Surgerical Resources or DaVinci Robotic Surgery.

    Only regret....I did NOT buy the stock when it was $135 per share....which is also what my surgeon said.