3 The procedure
3.1 Transoral carbon dioxide laser surgery is a minimally invasive endoscopic approach for treating tumours in the oropharynx. It is usually performed under general anaesthesia, with the patient supine and tilted head-down. The tumours are visualised using a modified mouth gag and/or an endoscope. The carbon dioxide laser device is coupled to an operating microscope and the laser beam is used to excise the tumour completely, together with an adequate margin of tissue around it. Large tumours are removed in 2 or more pieces as a multiblock resection.
3.2 Fibre-optic carbon dioxide lasers, flexible delivery systems and robots have been developed, all of which increase the range of angles of approach that can be used to achieve tumour resection.
3.3 Laser resection of tumours is sometimes combined with either simultaneous or staged neck dissection if there is cervical lymphadenopathy or a suspicion of occult metastases. Adjuvant radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy is also offered to some patients, based on a number of factors such as T-stage, nodal status, extracapsular spread of tumour, margin status and histology.