VR Aides Medical Staff to Separate Brain-fused Conjoined Twins

<Center> A surgeon using Virtual Reality to carry out a surgery. (Courtesy Photo)

Even though there’s a downside to it, technology is doing wonders becoming a necessity for humans. Virtual Reality (VR) for instance, has taken a toll to help improve human life especially when it comes to severe health conditions.

Brazilian twins, three-year-olds, Bernardo and Arthur Lima who were joined at the head have been successfully separated with the help of virtual reality. The twins underwent surgeries in Rio de Janeiro, with direction from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. The operation was one of the most complex separation processes ever completed, according to the charity which funded it — Gemini Untwined — which was founded by Dr. Noor ul Owase Jeelani in 2018.

The medical teams spent months trialing techniques using virtual reality projections of the twins, based on CT and MRI scans. It was described by Dr. Jeelani as “space-age stuff”.

“For the first time, surgeons in separate countries wore headsets and operated in the same “virtual reality room” together,” said Dr. Jeelani.

The twins had seven surgeries, involving more than 27 hours of operating time in the final operation alone, and almost 100 medical staff.

Speaking about the VR aspect of the surgery, Dr. Jeelani told the press, “It’s just wonderful. It’s really great to see the anatomy and do the surgery before you actually put the children at any risk.” Adds “In some ways, these operations are considered the hardest of our time, and to do it in virtual reality was just really man-on-Mars stuff.”

This was Dr. Jeelani’s sixth separation procedure with Gemini Untwined, after previously operating on twins from Pakistan, Sudan, Israel, and Turkey. He led the procedure alongside Dr. Gabriel Mufarrej, head of pediatric surgery at Instituto Estadual do Cerebro Paulo Niemeyer in Brazil.

Dr. Mufarrej said the hospital where he works has been caring for the boys for two-and-a-half years, and their separation will be “life-changing”.

“Since the parents of the boys came from their home in the Roraima region to Rio to seek our help two-and-a-half years ago, they have become part of our family here in the hospital. We are delighted that the surgery went so well.”

Bernardo and Arthur, at almost four years of age, are the oldest craniopagus twins — that is twins with a fused brain — to have been separated.

According to the charity, one in 60,000 births results in conjoined twins, and only 5% of those are craniopagus. With more and more innovations coming up, Virtual Reality is now termed as “a life-saving” hybrid in medical facilities today.