Beyond the Matter of Life and Death
Professor Tae Kyung (Department of Medicine)
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Most people do not enjoy postoperative scars, especially on the visible parts of their body. Professor Tae Kyung of Department of Medicine recently reported the outcomes of newly developed operation method in his paper “Functional and cosmetic outcomes of robot-assisted neck dissection by a postauricular facelift approach for head and neck cancer”. As from the title Tae’s research compared surgical outcomes of both conventional neck dissection and his new facelift approach, which takes cosmetic aspects of the patients into account.
In the case of patients with head and neck cancer, cancer cell often spreads to the lymph node of cervical (neck) area. The conventional surgical method to treat the lymph node metastasis is to give vertical and transverse cervical incision (cut), which leaves permanent mark in the patient’s neck. As always having interest in plastic surgery – which is part of Otolaryngology (Head and Neck Surgery) – Tae concerned for postoperative quality of life. Therefore, he took the facelift approach which is still mostly used for cosmetic purposes, especially to unwrinkle one’s face. This way, the scar is left in the back side of the patient’s ear alongside the hairline, which is significantly less visible.
The paper “Functional and cosmetic outcomes of robot-assisted neck dissection by a postauricular facelift approach for head and neck cancer” specifically reports the postoperative outcomes of the revolutionary implication as short as one day after the surgery to as long as 12 months. From 2013 Tae and his co-researchers collected data of 113 patients who underwent unilateral neck dissection both through the particular approach and the conventional approach. As a result, the team led by Tae was able to compare the functional and cosmetic outcomes which proved that Tae’s method is advantageous. Namely, patients suffered from less neck edema (swelling of neck) and sensory loss. Cosmetically patients reported significantly lower satisfaction scores. (Note that the higher the satisfaction is, the lower the scores are.)
Another specialty of Tae’s method of operation is that it requires robotic assist called Da Vinci robot because the operation makes a very thin tunnel inside the neck, making it physically impossible for the surgeons otherwise. Tae, as one of the first person in the world to conduct robotic neck dissection wanted to further develop the method and evaluate it. This report is one of his efforts trying to keep evaluating and improving his new surgical method. “It is still early to report the cure rate of cancer through this method, but now we know about the postoperative sensory loss, motion limitations, and the satisfaction of patients through this research,” said Tae.
Tae also struggles to improve Otolaryngology in Korea and Asia. He mentioned that he chose to become head and neck surgeon because the area was less developed and researched at that time, and that challenged him. Now he is a general secretary of Asia Pacific Society of Thyroid Surgery which he founded, wishing well for the future of the field.
Kim So-yun email@example.com
Photos by Choi Min-ju
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