Liver Cancer Surgery

UPMC Passavant now offers a minimally invasive alternative to traditional open surgery for liver resection procedures, thanks to advanced robotic-assisted technology.

“The only way to cure liver cancer is to cut it out with surgical resection,” says David Geller, MD, FACS, director of the UPMC Liver Cancer Center. “This technology means more patients can receive the benefits of minimally invasive surgery. In general, they have less pain, enjoy a shorter hospital stay, and experience faster recovery.”

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How Robotic-Assisted Technology Works

Because the liver is tucked up under the right side of the ribcage, our ribs can act as a barrier — making it difficult to reach some tumors. With robotic-assisted technology, UPMC surgeons can maneuver inside the abdominal cavity and more easily perform delicate dissection and suturing.

“Robotic-assisted surgery is a valuable addition to our minimally invasive surgery options,” says Dr. Geller. “It allows us to work in very small spaces. As a result, more cancer patients can have tumors removed laparoscopically, without needing a large incision.”

Samer Tohme, MD, a surgical oncologist with special training in robotic liver surgery, now leads the program at UPMC Passavant–McCandless. “The robot gives me a 360-degree range of motion. That allows me to get around difficult areas and structures,” says Dr. Tohme. He controls the robotic arms through a console.

Several features contribute to a more precise and efficient surgery:

  • A magnified 3D view of the patient’s anatomy
  • The ability to use tiny arms and instruments in the procedure
  • The robotic arms never become fatigued

Working as a Team: Patient Benefits of Robotic-Assisted Liver Resection

A group of experienced surgical oncologists, nurses, technicians, and anesthesiologists work together in the operating room (OR). “Even though we are using a minimally invasive technique, liver surgery is a very complex procedure. It takes a lot of orchestration in the OR to perform. We work as a team to take care of the patient,” says Melanie Ongchin, MD, FACS, chief of surgical oncology at UPMC Passavant.

As Dr. Tohme performs the procedure, Dr. Ongchin remains at the patient’s side to change instruments and provide other support as needed.

Instead of the usual four- to five-day hospital stay after open surgery, patients normally go home in just two days following this innovative procedure. Patients also typically have reduced blood loss, pain, and scarring — and recover faster, which means you can get back to doing the things you love.

Trusted Cancer Care in the North Hills

The American Cancer Society predicts more than 42,800 new liver cancer cases will be diagnosed this year alone.

Dr. Geller pioneered laparoscopic liver resection surgery. Since 2001, he and his team have performed more than 1,200 minimally invasive procedures. About one third of the surgeries were done at UPMC Passavant, where UPMC Liver Cancer Center services have been offered since 2005.

“The benefits are huge, especially for patients living in the North Hills,” says Dr. Geller. “We’re providing a full-scale service for liver evaluation, surgery, and follow-up care. And it’s right in their backyard.”


American Cancer Society. Key Statistics About Liver Cancer. Link

About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

When you are facing cancer, you need the best care possible. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, with more than 200 oncologists – making it easier for you to find world-class care close to home. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment. Most of all, we are here for you. Our patient-first approach aims to provide you and your loved ones the care and support you need. To find a provider near you, visit our website.