Australian-first paediatric robotic surgery at Epworth Richmond


In an Australian-first paediatric procedure, Head and Neck surgeon Ben Dixon has successfully removed a patient’s rare, parapharyngeal clear-cell sarcoma using robotic surgery at Epworth Richmond.

Six-year-old Freyja Christiansen had a second surgery last week to remove the remaining tumours in her neck and is recovering well.

Dr Dixon was contacted by Freyja’s mother Liz Christiansen, after her desperate search for treatments overseas led to a conversation with Boston Children’s Hospital that mentioned the Melbourne specialist and his work.

“Robotic surgery was deemed the best option to remove the sarcoma in the first procedure because it was located between the carotid artery and the base of the skull, and therefore not accessible from the lateral neck,” Dr Dixon said.

“Freyja had received immunotherapy to shrink the sarcoma under the care of Dr Antoinette Anazodo, Director of Sydney Children’s Hospital Youth Cancer Service. However, no surgeon in Sydney had access to a robot in a hospital with a paediatric ward; and the Royal Children’s in Melbourne did not have robotic surgical capabilities to perform this complex procedure.

“We knew that if Epworth could not take the case, it would have been difficult for Freyja to have her condition managed surgically in Australia.

"Thankfully for the Christiansen family, Epworth and the Royal Children’s committed to a well-managed collaborative plan for standby arrangements if Freyja needed admittance to a Paediatric ICU, should an emergency arise.

“The collaboration between doctors and directors at Epworth and the Children’s and the Paediatric Infant Perinatal Emergency Retrieval (PIPER), enabled us to go ahead with very good results for Freyja," Dr Dixon said.


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