How virtual reality helped surgeons separate two Conjoined brothers

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In Brazil, Conjoined brothers born linked by the skull were separated after several surgical procedures. Long and complex operations that have been meticulously prepared thanks to virtual reality.

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After spending most of their lives in a hospital in Rio de Janeiro (south-eastern Brazil) in a special bed, Arthur and Bernardo Lima, three and a half years old, can now look each other in the face after several marathon operations at the beginning of June. Adriely Lima, their mother, cried with relief at the end of the separationseparation: “We had been living in the hospital for four years,” she said in a statement.

This separation was made possible thanks to the help of the London-based charity Gemini Unwined, which described it as “the most complex” ever, given that the brothers shared several vital blood vessels.

“It was undoubtedly the most complex operation of my career,” neurosurgeon Gabriel Mufarrej, from the Paulo Niemeyer Brain Institute (IECPN), a hospital where the operation took place, told AFP. “At the base, no one thought they would survive. It is already historic that both could have been saved,” he insisted, specifying that the twins were still in the hospital where “a long convalescence” awaits them. “We don’t know yet how much they will be able to live a normal life,” he tempered, however.

Nine surgical procedures

In total, the twins underwent nine surgeries, including one lasting 13 hours on June 7 and another lasting 23 hours the next day. To prepare them, the hundred members of the medical team used an ultra-modern virtual reality system, in order to reconstruct the anatomy of the Siamese Siamese before operating on them.

“It looks like something from the space age,” described the British neurosurgeon Noor ul Owase Jeelani, from Gemini Untwined. “It’s wonderful to be able to observe the anatomy and practice the operation beforehand without putting the children’s lives at risk (…) You can’t imagine how reassuring it is for the surgeons,” he told the PA news agency.

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