Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a chronic disease affecting neuromuscular transmission and typically results in debilitating muscle weakness. While the thymus gland plays a key role in the disease, the exact mechanism is not fully understood.
What is known is that the thymus gland is involved in the development of the immune system, which enables the body to defend itself against infection. The thymus produces certain cells, called T-cell lymphocytes, which are a vital part of the immune system. These T-cell lymphocytes stimulate the production of antibodies whose job it is to recognize and fight off foreign invaders called antigens, which enter our body.
Normally the antibodies destroy the antigens before major illness occurs. The basic problem that produces MG, however, involves a blockade of muscle (acetylcholine) receptors by some of these antibodies, which does harm instead of good. Damage to the receptors and impaired neuromuscular transmission ultimately leads to symptoms of weakness and fatigue.
In the United States, only about 14 in every 100,000 people are diagnosed with MG. However, myasthenia gravis is thought to be under diagnosed and the prevalence is probably higher.
For those suffering from MG, there are several types of treatment options available, of which one is surgery. Typically this involves the removal of the thymus gland. This process is called a thymectomy.
There are two widely used approaches for a thymectomy – the transcervical and the transsternal approach. The transcervical approach requires the surgeon to make an incision through the neck. While the transsternal approach involves making a long “Y” shaped incision between the chest and the breastbone. Both of these options require fairly invasive incisions.
If your doctor recommends surgical repair, you may be a candidate for a new, less invasive surgical procedure called da Vinci Thymectomy. This procedure uses a state-of-the-art surgical system designed to help your surgeon see vital anatomical structures more clearly and to perform a more precise operation.
For most patients, da Vinci Thymectomy offers numerous potential benefits over traditional open-chest surgery, including:
Shorter hospital stay
Less pain and scarring
Less risk of infection
Less blood loss and fewer transfusions
Quicker return to normal activities
As with any surgery, these benefits cannot be guaranteed, as surgery is patient- and procedure-specific.