Robots could become a pleural mesothelioma patient’s new best friend.

According to the online robotics trade magazine Robotics Tomorrow, the future of mesothelioma treatment includes robotic surgery — and that future is already here.

In an article published earlier this month, pleural mesothelioma was a highlighted example of a disease that robots could help treat. Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the pleura, which is a sheet-like membrane separating the lung cavity and chest wall. When this cancer spreads, it almost always does so to the lung cavity and nearby lung. When the tumors invade the lung, extrapleural pneumonectomy is often the best option for pleural mesothelioma patients.

Extrapleural pneumonectomy is an invasive pleural mesothelioma surgery involving the removal of cancerous tissue, including the affected lung. The operation also requires removal of the diaphragm, pericardium, affected pleura and affected lymph nodes.

However, the procedure has high morbidity and mortality rates, largely due to complications that can arise from removing so much tissue and an organ.


Risks Associated With Extrapleural Pneumonectomy

Surgery is the most effective method to remove mesothelioma, especially the pleural form of the disease. However, extrapleural pneumonectomy is the more invasive option compared to the lung-saving procedure pleurectomy with decortication.

In a 2005 study published by the European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery, 74 patients during a 59-month period received extrapleural pneumonectomy. Of them, 6.75% died following surgery and 63% experienced “significant morbidity,” according to the published report on the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Complications for the patients included in the study included pneumonia, lung injury, intrathoracic hemorrhaging and irregular heartbeats leading to blood clots. Other risks of the surgery are:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Respiratory failure
  • Infection

So how can robots diminish these concerns and make extrapleural pneumonectomy safer?


Why We Need Robots in the Surgery Room

Technological advancements impacting the mesothelioma treatment world is nothing new. A recent study revealed that artificial intelligence could improve the accuracy of diagnosing mesothelioma. Next up is the surgical room? It seems so.

The Robotics Tomorrow article is based on a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Robotic Surgery. According to the study, robots have greater dexterity than human surgeons and can access confined spaces more easily within the patient. For this reason, robotics may enhance the pleurectomy phase of extrapleural pneumonectomy.

The pleurectomy phase of the procedure involves the removal of the pleura. According to the American Journal of Robotic Surgery, using robots during this stage resulted in a smaller amount of blood loss and a higher percentage of the tumors removed.

“Patients who otherwise face being unable to have surgery or having invasive, high-risk procedures, like (extrapleural pneumonectomy), now have more hope,” the Robotics Tomorrow article reads.


Find a Surgeon for Your Pleural Mesothelioma

If you have an early stage of pleural mesothelioma, surgery is a feasible option for you. Even if you have Stage 3 of the disease, you may be a candidate for a procedure to remove most or all of the tumors.

The team at Mesothelioma Guide know which mesothelioma doctors specialize in pleural operations. Whether you’d rather extrapleural pneumonectomy or pleurectomy with decortication, our patient advocate and registered nurse Karen Ritter can help you find a surgeon. Contact her at to discuss treatment options and learn more about pleural mesothelioma surgery.

    Sources & Author

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About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.