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da Vinci ® Lymph Node Surgery at Our Los Angeles Center

The da Vinci robotic lymph node surgery offers oncological surgeons a minimally invasive option for exploring how far lung cancer has spread. This information is critical for determining appropriate treatment. For example, if a biopsy of the mediastinal or hilar lymph nodes shows that cancer has moved out of the lungs, this means the disease has progressed to a later stage. Patients might need a more rigorous course of therapy to improve their chances of survival. On the other hand, patients might have the option to avoid the discomfort and side effects associated with such cancer treatments if their lymph node biopsies come back clean.

Having the right tools and techniques to access the thoracic lymph nodes without major open surgery is a substantial benefit in both cases. It means patients who do have advanced cancer aren’t undergoing a lengthy and painful recovery from surgery at the same time they should be starting radiation or chemotherapy. Those who don’t require additional treatment can have a higher level of confidence that the cancer is not lurking undetected, waiting to spread further.

Why Choose da Vinci Lymph Node Surgery?

Unlike lymph nodes in areas like the neck or armpit, the lymph nodes most likely to be involved in lung cancer are very difficult to reach. They are nestled in the chest, surrounded on all four sides by the breastbone, lungs and spine. Traditionally, the method for accessing these lymph nodes is to do a thoracotomy, which entails a long incision in the chest. Some surgeons may offer a mini-thoracotomy that uses smaller incisions and video-assisted instruments. However, this technique can be challenging to perform given the limitations of standard equipment. In contrast, the da Vinci Surgical System is designed specifically to provide full access while using very small incisions and offering a dramatically shorter recovery time. It provides surgeons and patients with the benefits of both an open thoracotomy and an endoscopic mini-thoracotomy while avoiding the drawbacks of these older, more invasive procedures.

What If a Patient Is Having Lung Surgery Anyway?

Often, the lymph nodes are sampled or removed during a procedure to remove the affected lobe of the lung. It might seem like a minimally invasive option for thoracic lymph node biopsy is pointless if the chest has already been opened invasively. However, patients with lung cancer don’t always need to have a full thoracotomy. In fact, both lobectomy and wedge resection (two operations designed to remove cancerous tissue from the lungs) are often completed successfully using the minimally invasive state-of-the-art da Vinci equipment. Patients should know about this less traumatic option before they agree to schedule a conventional surgery.

Dissection with da Vinci Lymph Node Surgery

In surgical terminology, resection is a partial removal of tissue from the target area while dissection is complete removal. In some cases, dissection of the entire lymph node is part of lung cancer treatment. This has the benefit of not only providing a sample for biopsy but also completely eliminating a node from which the cancer might spread further into the body. Many surgeons feel that this approach offers patients the best long-term prognosis. Objections to full dissection in the past have included factors like technical difficulty in reaching the nodes and increased complication rate. Robotic surgery addresses these concerns by increasing access and making damage to surrounding tissue less likely.

Some patients may have a mediastinal tumor that develops directly on the lymph nodes or other tissues in the chest cavity. Robotic dissection may be appropriate treatment for these types of cancer as well. da Vinci surgery permits access to the entire mediastinal region without opening up the chest and spreading the ribs.

Benefits of da Vinci Lymph Node Surgery

Patients who need lymph node surgery will appreciate these benefits of the revolutionary robotic approach:

  • Easier access to multiple nodes for more accurate biopsy
  • Tiny incisions instead of a long incision that leaves an ugly scar
  • Minimal blood loss during the operation
  • A shorter, more manageable recovery time, often half the time associated with traditional open surgery
  • Fast healing that isn’t likely to interfere with follow up treatments
  • Less nerve damage in the operating site and less post-operative pain
  • Fewer complications to cope with
  • Potential to reduce cancer recurrence and prolong life


One of the best things about this minimally invasive approach is that patients can worry less about their lymph node operation when they are already dealing with a cancer diagnosis. During such as stressful time, providing patients with the best possible surgical experience is a very important goal.

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