The Grapevine

Scar-Free Thyroid Removal Surgery Performed Through The Mouth

A surgeon from Stanford Medicine introduced a new procedure for a scar-free thyroid removal. Dana Lin performed the surgery by going through the mouth and without leaving a scar on the neck. 

In 2018, Karina Torres, a hair stylist, makeup artist and massage therapist from Fresno, Calif., was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. At the time, treatment to remove the tumor is known to cause scarring on the front of the neck. 

Torres said she already had a surgery before and she’s worried to get another scar. This led her to Lin, assistant professor of surgery at Stanford School of Medicine. 

“A scar on the neck — that’s something you can’t really cover up,” she said in a statement posted Wednesday

Lin offered Torres to be the first patient to undergo the new type of surgery, called transoral thyroidectomy. The surgeon promised that it will not leave a visible scar since the process removes thyroid cancer only through the mouth. 

“I offered it to her, and explained that she would be our first patient,” Lin said. “She was excited about it and wanted to pursue it.”

Torres said she felt comfortable with transoral thyroidectomy and agreed to be a pioneer patient. 

“I knew Dr. Lin would be there with another specialist who had done the procedure before, so I was comfortable with it,” the patient said.

Performing Transoral Thyroidectomy

The scar-free procedure was first introduced in 2014 by a Thai physician. Medical centers then started to use the procedure in 2016 across the U.S. 

Lin said she learned transoral thyroidectomy from Insoo Suh, assistant professor of surgery at University of California-San Francisco. The Stanford surgeon then practiced on cadavers prior to Torres’ surgery in April. 

The procedure involved three small incisions inside Torres’ lower lip, where Lin inserted a scope with a video camera, a grasping tool and a cutting tool. 

Watching the screens, Lin removed parts of the patient’s thyroid gland where tumor developed. Still in Torres’ neck, the surgeon placed the tumor in a little bag and pulled it out through the mouth. 

The procedure took nearly four hours. Lin said she may make it shorter in the future as she learns more from other surgeries. 

Torres said the procedure caused only minimal pain and discomfort. She was even discharged the next day. 

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