Science-- there's something for everyone

Thursday, November 3, 2011

More scarless surgery

I’ve written before about surgeons using natural orifices (usually the mouth or vagina) to perform surgical procedures on internal organs. Now Kofi Boahene and his colleagues from Johns Hopkins have used a scarless technique to access and remove tumors at the base of patients’ skulls.

Traditionally, expunging such tumors involves making incisions in the face and often removing bone.  Aside from the trauma of having disfiguring scars, the procedure can result in nerve damage and requires long recovery times.  Instead, the Johns Hopkins doctors used a different route to get to the tumor.  They used what Boahene describes as a ‘window…above the jawbone and below the cheekbone’.

After feeling around in my mouth for a bit, I can’t say that I can locate such a window.  I’ve therefore included the illustration below, which shows a ready-made access point behind the lower teeth.  By going through this window inside the mouth, the doctors decreased the surgical time required to remove a tumor by two thirds, and the recovery time to only one day.  And of course, there are no visible scars.

Illustration by Patrick J. Lynch, 12/23/2006.

This kind of surgery won’t work for everyone, but it may be an excellent choice for many patients who have tumors at the back of their heads or necks.