General Surgeon Dr. David Harrell of Premier Surgical Associates successfully performed Tennessee’s first “hidden scar” robotic Thyroidectomy on March 5, 2020, at Tennova Healthcare’s North Knoxville Medical Center.

Unlike traditional open thyroid surgery that involves a long neck incision and a visible scar, the patient’s thyroid and a large nodule were removed through her armpit and chest via a few tiny cuts.

Dr. David Harrell, General Surgeon

The procedure was performed using the da Vinci Surgical System. It features a 3-D camera and robotic instruments that the surgeon controls from a computer console. The system gives the surgeon a detailed inside view of the surgery site and excellent precision. Patients generally have less scaring, pain and a quicker recovery versus traditional surgery.

Robotically-assisted surgery has been used for years in the United States for prostate, heart and gynecological procedures, but robotic thyroidectomy has only been performed at a small number of medical centers in the U.S.

Dr. Harrell, who has performed more than 700 general surgeries using the da Vinci system, also specializes in endocrine disease. He felt his experience with thyroid procedures and frequent use of robotic surgery techniques were a natural combination for performing a robotic thyroidectomy.  “It involves the same robotic instruments we already use every day and offers people a way to have a thyroid safely removed without a visible neck scar.”

Da Vinci Surgical System, courtesy of Intuitive

The thyroid is a gland in the neck that helps control the body’s metabolism. Thyroid nodules are common and occur in some 30 percent of Americans. Dr. Harrell is pleased to have performed the first robotic thyroidectomy in Tennessee state and expects the use of this innovative technique to increase.

“Thyroid disease is becoming more common. We’re doing more screenings now and finding thyroid nodules more frequently,” explains Dr. Harrell. “I’m excited to offer this new surgical option to patients.”

About Premier Surgical

Premier Surgical Associates is the largest vascular surgery and general surgery practice in the East Tennessee region. Premier’s 30 board-certified surgeons perform general, vascular, endovascular, vein, bariatric, breast, laparoscopic and oncologic procedures. Premier has offices in Knoxville, Cleveland, Harriman, Dandridge, Lenoir City, Maryville, Morristown, Newport and Sevierville. For more information about Premier Surgical, please visit