Kelin ‘In Good Hands’ with ENT Expert in Robotic Surgery

Kelin’s sore throat wasn’t going away. When a nurse referred the family to a pediatric otolaryngology (ENT) specialist near their Wisconsin home, the exam revealed a large vascular lesion in a hard-to-see part of her throat, and it was growing. The specialist said Kelin had a venous malformation, an abnormal cluster of veins, that would need to be surgically removed to avoid issues with breathing and swallowing.

Kelin and her family were referred to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago for further care.

Lurie Children’s is one of the only children’s hospitals in the world home to a comprehensive, state-of-the-art pediatric Robotic Surgery Program. Surgeons use a sophisticated, computer-enhanced system to guide surgical tools in areas of the body where a surgeon’s hands would otherwise have limited mobility. Only a handful of pediatric ENT surgeons in the country are trained in using this technology for transoral robotic surgery, known as TORS. Dr. Douglas Johnston, a pediatric otolaryngologist, is among them.

Using TORS for carefully selected patients, surgeons like Dr. Johnston can navigate into the airway through the mouth with increased precision, dexterity, and a magnified view to successfully remove tumors and lesions. Such procedures might otherwise have to be done with a more restricted view or done more invasively, potentially requiring a longer recovery. 

Meeting Dr. Johnston helped Kelin’s family feel confident in their decision to come to Lurie Children’s. “He made us, and more importantly, made Kelin feel like she was in good hands,” said Kelin’s mom, Sara. 

Just before Kelin had surgery, she underwent a glue embolization in which the lesion in her throat was injected with a type of glue to make the lesion firmer and more identifiable during surgery, while significantly reducing the chance of blood loss during surgery. Pediatric interventional radiologists at Lurie Children’s perform these types of procedures in a minimally invasive way to treat various vascular lesions in the body, sometimes as a stand-alone treatment, or in combination with surgeons. The pre-operative collaboration between Lurie Children’s interventional radiologists and ENT teams would make removing the lesion easier and give Kelin a shorter recovery time.

After a long day of surgery, Dr. Johnston removed the entire lesion. Kelin avoided a procedure to split her jaw to access the mass and only needed to stay one night in the hospital post-surgery. After two weeks of recovering at home, Kelin returned to school, running cross country and playing the clarinet in the school band – activities she recognizes she can do only with her healthy, unobstructed airway.

Read more about multidisciplinary vascular lesion care at Lurie Children’s. 

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