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Surgical complications after robotic thyroidectomy for thyroid carcinoma: a single center experience with 3,000 patients



Robotic thyroidectomy (RT), a new gasless, transaxillary approach developed by the Yonsei University group in Seoul, Korea, eliminates the need for a cervical incision. Since RT is technically complex and has a steep learning curve, the surgical complication rate may initially be higher than with conventional surgery. This study evaluated the complication rates of transaxillary RT and assessed ways to prevent surgical complications.


Between October 2007 and March 2013, 3,000 patients underwent RT for thyroid cancer in the Department of Surgery, Yonsei University College of Medicine at Severance Hospital, Seoul. The medical records of these patients were reviewed retrospectively, and surgical complications were assessed on the basis of clinical findings.


The most common surgical complication was symptomatic hypocalcemia, of which 37.43 % cases were transient and 1.10 % permanent. Other surgical complications included recurrent laryngeal nerve injury (1.23 % transient, 0.27 % permanent), seroma (1.73 %), hematoma (0.37 %), chyle leakage (0.37 %), trachea injury (0.2 %), Horner’s syndrome (0.03 %), carotid artery injury (0.03 %), and brachiocephalic vein injury (0.03 %). The technique-related complications, which were never seen in conventional open thyroidectomy, were axillary skin flap perforation (0.1 %), and traction injury of the arm on the side the lesion was located (0.13 %).


Surgeons who have mastered standardized robotic surgical procedures and who understand potential complications and how to prevent them can perform RT safely.

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All authors including Drs Ban, Yoo, Kim, Son, Park, Lee, Lee, Kang, Jeong, Nam, Chung, and Park have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.

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Correspondence to Kee-Hyun Nam.

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Ban, E.J., Yoo, J.Y., Kim, W.W. et al. Surgical complications after robotic thyroidectomy for thyroid carcinoma: a single center experience with 3,000 patients. Surg Endosc 28, 2555–2563 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00464-014-3502-1

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  • Transaxillary robotic thyroidectomy
  • Surgical complications
  • Thyroid carcinoma