Robotic-assisted Surgery Successfully Removes a Rare Tumor

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

Improved Technology and Advanced Medical Approach Shows Way Forward

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

Chordoma is extremely rare; it affects only one in a million people every year. Pernikoff’s specific type of chordoma, located on his C2 vertebrae, is even rarer, making its treatment very much of a challenge.

Neil Malhotra, MD, an assistant professor of Neurosurgery and Orthopedic Surgery and the vice chair of operations in the department of Neurosurgery, garnered a multidisciplinary team of physicians to treat chordoma of Pernikoff. Malhotra made a plan of removing the tumor through a rare and complex spinal surgery approach. Bert W. O’Malley Jr., MD, a professor and chairman of the department of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, planned to assist the approach of Malhotra and improve recovery of Pernikoff’s by making use of a trans-oral robotic (TORS) approach for the second part of the surgery. TORS is the world’s first group of minimally invasive robotic surgery techniques that has been invented at Penn so as to remove malignant and benign tumors of the mouth and throat.

Now, nine months after the complex surgery, Pernikoff is already back to his usual work in commercial contracting.

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