Transoral robotic biopsy of the tongue base: A novel paradigm in the evaluation of unknown primary tumors of the head and neck

Waleed M. Abuzeid, Carol R. Bradford, Vasu Divi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Scopus citations


Background: Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck can present as a cervical metastasis from an unknown primary site. The standard diagnostic workup includes panendoscopy and directed biopsies but this will fail to identify a portion of unknown primary tumors. Methods: Herein, we present a case report of a male patient with an unknown primary tumor in which the da Vinci surgical robot was used to evaluate the tongue base. Results: Clinical evaluation, imaging, and panendoscopy with directed biopsies failed to detect the primary tumor site. Robot-assisted biopsy of a broad area of the tongue base, incorporating submucosal tissue, identified the primary tumor with minimal postoperative morbidity. Conclusion Failure to localize an unknown primary tumor often results in widespread irradiation of the upper aerodigestive tract, inducing significant morbidity. Robot-assisted biopsies of the tongue base may identify unknown primaries that would otherwise have been missed through standard directed biopsy techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E126-E130
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2013



  • biopsy
  • carcinoma
  • diagnosis
  • robotic
  • unknown

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology

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