Safer Neck Surgery

April 3, 2009 8:01:51 PM PDT
Operating around the head and neck is a delicate job. When doctors are dealing with kids, it becomes even trickier. A new procedure aims to ease the pain and eliminate scars so the smallest patients can grow up without the reminders of surgery.Twins Colton and Isabella Suggs may seem like double trouble, but mom Sarah is just happy to have them around. When they were born twelve weeks early, the twins went straight to the neonatal intensive care unit. The worries didn't end at the hospital. Months later, Saraj noticed two little red marks on Colton's neck.

"And I noticed that they were draining," Sarah told Ivanhoe.

Colton had pits, or cysts that had formed in the womb. If left alone, the cysts can cause chronic infection. Colton's had to be removed. Mitchell Austin, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Nemours Children's Clinic in Orlando, Fla., used a new minimally invasive procedure to take care of the problem. A fiber optic tool typically used in sinus surgeries enters a small incision in the neck. The surgeon removes the pits with less risk of touching muscles, large arteries and major nerves in the face.

"Larger surgeries and larger incisions also endanger more nerves that are very, very close to the face," Dr. Austin said. "We're going underneath, behind and below all those areas."

Traditional surgery through the neck takes two incisions and recovery takes four to seven days. The newer procedure uses one smaller incision and kids can be back to normal in three days. It also leaves little to no scarring. Colton bounced back quickly.

"When we went into it knowing what could be and when he woke up it was as if nothing had happened to him, we were very, very relieved," Sarah said.

Now, it's full speed ahead for the twins -- double the work, but double the love.

The minimally invasive procedure was first developed to remove thyroids in adults. It can now be used to retrieve tissue samples from lymph nodes and even remove large masses in the neck.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Mitchell Austin, MD
Nemours Children's Clinic
Orlando, FL
Public Relations: (407) 650-7462
www.nemours.org

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