Breakthrough thyroid surgery developed locally avoids cutting neck

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, May 26, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Local doctors at Georgia Health Sciences University have found a way to perform thyroid surgery without cutting your throat. The first-of-its-kind breakthrough is already bringing what patients call "life-changing" results.

We caught up with 17-year-old Rachel Casady at the gym. Rachel's already had quite a workout this year.

"I got a big cyst on my throat out of nowhere," she told News 12.

The aspiring fitness model's portfolio tells the graphic story of a thyroid condition that grew to be more than just an eyesore.

"It was so big I would eat and I would get choked," said Rachel. "I would take pills and get choked."

Rachel turned to Dr. David Terris at Georgia Health Sciences University for help.

"The main concern with thyroid conditions is that it may represent a cancer," said Dr. Terris.

Dr. Terris recommended removing the left side of Rachel's thyroid.

"Cutting her throat would end her modeling career," said Rachel's mother, Cynthia Casady. "Her fitness would just end it."

The traditional throat surgery was a non-starter for Casady family.

"Just to know that your child's dreams could be shattered at 17," said Cynthia, "just when they are starting to dream big and reach for it, is saddening."

But thanks to a robotic surgical system, Dr. Terris was able to take a different approach.

"There are just a few centers around the country that are even doing robotic surgery," said Dr. Terris. "We are the first to do it from behind the ear, which we think is a safer, easier way to get to the thyroid gland."

Rachel became one of 25 patients across the country to have her thyroid removed through a face-lift incision behind the ear.

"Sometimes people don't realize that it is all happening right here in Augusta," said Dr. Terris.

"When it doesn't affect you, a lot of times you are like, 'That is nice,'" said Cynthia. "But when it is laying in your lap, and it is your child or your loved one, you are so thankful that is there."

Rachel is now back on her feet after 8 weeks of recovery.

"To actually see my child in this gym working out," said Cynthia, "it is just a blessing. It is something we have to be thankful for every day."

One week after Rachel's successful surgery, she learned she was chosen as one of the top 100 for Jovani Fashion. She is now training to head to Atlanta for a fitness competition.

Dr. Terris only performs the surgery twice a month. He says it is not for everyone, but it seems to be a much-appreciated option.

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