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IMAGE: Robot-assisted spinal surgery for chordoma tumor removal. view more 

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Credit: Penn Medicine

PHILADELPHIA – Noah Pernikoff is back to his life in New York City after becoming the first patient in the world to undergo a complex three-part, robotic-assisted surgery. The robotic arms made it possible for the multidisciplinary team at Penn to successfully remove a rare tumor from Noah’s neck, where the skull meets the spine. The ground breaking surgery was completed by a multi-surgeon team, led by Dr. Neil Malhotra, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in August 2017 over a span of two days and more than 20 hours.

Chordoma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the bones of the skull base and spine. A chordoma tumor usually grows slowly and is often asymptomatic for years. In the case of 27-year-old Noah Pernikoff, a 2016 car accident revealed his surprising diagnosis.

Among his injuries from the accident, Noah–who was working in New York City for a commercial contracting firm–tore his rotator cuff and had several herniated discs. More important, however, was his post-accident nagging neck pain, which lead to an x-ray that revealed a concerning lesion in his neck, on his cervical spine. The lesion

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