Device reaches hard-to-get tumors

Local News

Patients with colon tumors, or colorectal cancer, may sometimes face a difficult treatment depending upon the location and size of the lesion. Now, a newly FDA-approved flex robotic scope is helping colorectal surgeons see and remove tumors in a minimally invasive way.

“I love the outdoors. I love to be constantly involved in something,” said Kelly Benson.

The fifty-year old Benson was healthy and active her entire life, until six months ago. That’s when she would suddenly double over.

“It would literally just suck the air right out of your body. The pain was that intense,” Kelly said.

Doctors found a tumor larger than a golf ball inside Benson’s colon.  

“It was a benign lesion, but it was big enough that it could not be removed via an endoscopic approach,” said Javier Salgado, MD, a colorectal surgeon at UPMC.

Instead, Dr. Salgado was among the first surgeons in the country to use a newly FDA- approved flexible device: a robotic attachment that moves like a snake. Although it’s new, Kelly had no reservations. She’s a machine shop plant manager, and is comfortable with high-tech options.  

“Automation and robotics is something I’m very familiar with,” she said.

The robotic attachment allows surgeons to have better access through the rectum and colon.

“We dock it which means it remains still and then deploy our instruments, which have very good articulation so we can excise the lesions,” Dr. Salgado explained.

With this, surgeons can avoid open abdominal surgery, sparing patients weeks of recovery. Benson was up and moving the day after the procedure, and back to work and travel right away.

She said, “I’m right back to my normal, outgoing lively self.”

Kelly’s tumor was benign, but surgeons can use the robot to remove cancerous tumors, as well.  Dr. Salgado says patients with advanced rectal cancer may not be good candidates for this surgery right now, but it may be an option in the future.

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