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Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center Physician Uses Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery in Treatment of Sleep Apnea

Chicago, Ill. — Aug. 11, 2011 — Robots of varying complexity have been used for years, for everything from manufacturing to space exploration. Now, they can even help you get a better night’s sleep.

Michael Friedman, MD, chief of the Section of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, is one of the first surgeons in the nation to utilize the increasingly popular robotic surgical tools for the minimally invasive treatment of severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

“Approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) last year, TransOral Robotic Surgery allows for finely controlled tissue removal within the patient’s throat without the need for external incisions,” Friedman said.

Initially used to treat cancer of the throat and mouth, Friedman developed a technique that uses the da Vinci Surgical System to reduce obstructive tissue of the back of the throat, relieving OSA. The condition affects more than 20 million Americans, leading to critical health issues such as weight gain, hypertension, heart disease and impotence. Although OSA can be treated with noninvasive devices, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, millions can’t tolerate the cumbersome device that needs to be strapped to the face. Formerly, surgery offered little chance of a cure due to limited access to the back of the throat. With the use of the da Vinci system, however, Friedman says radiofrequency technology can be introduced right through the mouth to create more space in the throat and lessen obstructions to breathing during sleep.

“I wish this surgery had been around longer, so I could have had it five years ago,” said Phil Grigus, one of the first of Dr. Friedman’s patients to undergo the surgery last April. “I didn’t think I was sleeping badly before, but after the surgery, I’m more alert during the day and I definitely have more energy.”

Grigus said he underwent the procedure, which he describes as “life changing,” after he tried non-invasive methods, like the CPAP and an oral dental appliance, and felt he had nothing to lose. He said he’s since lost a total of 24 pounds because he’s sleeping more soundly and, in turn, has more energy for exercise.

“I was recently on vacation with my family and fell asleep by the pool,” he said. “My 27-year-old son said it was the first time I didn’t make a sound.”

In a study of 60 patients, Friedman said the robotic technique resulted in significant improvement. His study will be presented at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery’s Annual Meeting and OTO EXPO in San Francisco, September 11 to 14, 2011.

About Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center

Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center is a 408-bed hospital in Chicago with a Level I trauma center and a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the highest designations awarded by the state of Illinois. It offers comprehensive inpatient services, including medical, surgical, obstetrics and pediatric care, as well as a full breadth of outpatient services. A recipient of numerous awards for quality and clinical excellence, Illinois Masonic was ranked one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals in 2010 and 2011 by Thomson Reuters, as well as named a recipient of the organization’s Everest Award for National Benchmarks in 2010. The medical center also was named a Top Performer in the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index, as well as one of the 50 Best Hospitals in America by Becker’s Hospital Review for 2010. In 2008, the hospital achieved Magnet designation for excellence and quality in nursing services by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program. Illinois Masonic is part of Advocate Health Care, a 2009 and 2010 Thomson Reuters Top 10 U.S. health care system for quality and clinical performance and the largest provider of health care services in Illinois. For more on Illinois Masonic, visit

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