A team of neurosurgeons led by an Indian-origin professor from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine performed the first-ever robot-assisted spinal surgery to successfully remove a rare tumour on the patient's neck.The robotic approach assisted with a three-part, two-day complex procedure for a rare chordoma tumour removal from a patients' neck, where the skull meets the spine.Chordoma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the bones of the skull base and spine. A chordoma tumour usually grows slowly and is often asymptomatic for years. It is extremely rare and it affects only one in a million people each year."This would be a first ever use of a robot in this manner -- a rare approach to an already rare and complex case," Neil Malhotra, an assistant professor of Neurosurgery and Orthopaedic Surgery said in a statement."Our team needed to reconstruct the removed area of patient's spine using bone and rods, and that was only the beginning," Malhotra added.He added that due to the placement of the tumour, the removal could compromise the structural integrity of the patient's spine, causing permanent paralysis.There was also a risk of complications such as bone and tissue breakdown, loss of sense of smell, fine motor skill issues and complete paralysis."If we could not remove the entire tumour, it would likely grow back, perhaps more aggressive than before," Malhotra added.The surgery was performed in three parts and now nine months after the surgery, the patient is back to work in commercial contracting.