Top Docs Q&A: Scharukh Jalisi

His book, ‘Robotic Surgery of the Head and Neck’ was released in December.

This post is part of our Top Docs Q&A series where we ask a physician who was selected as one of our Top Docs questions about their field, current research, and life as a doctor. 

Name: Scharukh Jalisi 

Hospital Affiliation: Boston Medical Center

Title: Director of the head and neck oncologic surgery and skull base surgery, department of neurological surgery, associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine

Field: Otolaryngology

Specialty: Endocrine surgery, head and neck cancer, and skull base surgery

Boston Medical Center is the first hospital in Massachusetts to use the da Vinci Transoral robot in surgery. How does it work?

The robot allows us to take out tumors of the throat through the mouth without any big incisions. This is a machine with four arms on it, and we insert three of the arms into the patient’s mouth. Two of the arms are used for equipment, and the other is used for a high definition camera. The camera lets us zoom in and out, and get close to the tumor. It also lets us look around curves, like the back of the tongue. Before, we had the cut the jaw completely out. From a patient’s perspective, you get a good cancer outcome and a better quality of life outcome.

You published the book, “Robotic Surgery of the Head and Neck, A Comprehensive Guide” this month. What does the book discuss?

We do the surgery and write about how others can do it. It’s a teaching guide. We talk about teaching techniques and how to set up the program in a hospital.

You also use the CyberKnife for radio-surgery of the head, neck, and skull base tumors. What does the CyberKnife do?

The CyberKnife therapy is basically robotic radiation. You link up the radiation unit on a robotic arm. This is a primary surgery for skull base tumors located under the brain that are not accessible with surgery. We take CT and MRI scans, and map out the tumor. Then, we decide where we are going to radiate it on the computer, feed the plan to the CyberKnife, and then it takes out the tumor accurately.

Another surgery technique you use is a telescope to remove tumors under the brain, how does this work?

We have the endoscopic skull base surgery that removes tumors under the brain with the telescope. Typically to remove these tumors, part of the skull is taken off. But now, we can go up the nose and to remove the tumor. This way, there are no incisions on the outside, and we save the patient the side effects and risks of having brain surgery.

You’ve published a number of articles this year that discuss head and neck cancer. What has been your most interesting finding?

The outcomes of head and neck surgery in high-volume centers versus low-volume centers has been the most interesting. We found that high-volume centers have lower complications from the surgery because we can catch everything faster. Think about it, someone who does the surgery every day is going to perform it better than someone who performs it once a year. It’s important for patients to know who their doctor is before going into a surgery so they can have the best outcome.