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Robotic Surgery at USC

Robotic Esophagectomy for Esophageal Cancer

Robotic Esophagectomy at USC Department of Surgery

Surgical oncologists and thoracic surgeons at the Upper GI and General Surgery division at the Keck School of Medicine Department of Surgery are developing a comprehensive minimally-invasive and robotic program to treat esophageal cancer and all other gastrointestinal (GI) cancers, as well as conducting innovative research that will advance the future of robotic surgical practice.

Hand cradling small robotic instrumentRobotic Surgery for Esophageal Cancer

Robotic surgery uses tiny, computer-aided robotic instruments controlled by a surgeon to remove the diseased portion of the esophagus (the tube connecting the back of the throat to the stomach). During the procedure, three to four small keyhole incisions, each about half an inch long, are made in the upper belly, chest, or lower neck. The surgeon uses a laparoscope to view the surgical site on a magnified, 3D monitor, while controlling tiny computer-aided robotic instruments to perform the procedure.

Robotic esophageal surgery avoids large abdominal incisions, results in less scarring and discomfort, and a faster recovery time for the patient.

About Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is a treatable disease, with most esophageal cancers are either adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • most common type of esophageal cancer
  • usually occur in the upper and middle part of esophagus
  • squamous cells line the esophagus


  • usually occur in the lower part of esophagus
  • develops in glandular tissue
  • normally part of inner lining of esophagus
  • glandular cells replace an area of squamous cells to form adenocarcinoma
  • many adenocarcinomas of the esophagus are associated with Barrett's Disease, although most patients with Barrett's esophagus do not develop cancer of the esophagus

Closeup view of da Vinci robotic instrumentsTreatment for Esophageal Cancer

As with many cancers, chances for recovery is best if treated early. Since esophageal cancer often is not diagnosed early, by the time it is detected it has already spread throughout esophagus and beyond.


  • surgery to remove all or a portion of esophagus
  • lymph nodes will also be removed
  • upper part of esophagus is reconnected to stomach; stomach is raised higher into the chest area to compensate for the missing portion of the esophagus
  • if the cancer is located toward the lower portion of the esophagus and near the stomach, or where the esophagus and stomach join, surgeon will remove part of the stomach and part of the esophagus with the cancerous cells
  • if cancer has not spread beyond esophagus, removing the esophagus may be able to cure the cancer
  • surgery can also be recommended as a palliative measure, to ease pain, help reduce symptoms including trouble with swallowing, and to make it easier for the patient to eat and maintain a healthy diet

Related link: Esophageal Cancer and Treatment at USC Department of Surgery


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University of Southern California
Upper G.I. and General Surgery

1450 San Pablo Street
Healthcare Consultation Center 4
Suite 6200
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Phone: (323) 442-6868
Fax: (323) 865-9630

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