Conjoined Twins, 3, Are Separated In Historic Surgery That Utilized Virtual Reality

Aug 05, 2022 by apost team

A pair of conjoined twins in Brazil have been separated after a historic surgery that involved more than 100 medical staff and virtual reality surgical rooms.

On Aug. 1, 2022, Gemini Untwined, a charity that focuses on the research and treatment of craniopagus twins, announced the success of a lengthy surgery to separate 3-year-olds Bernardo and Arthur Lima. The boys had been born with their heads fused together and separation was dangerous as they “shared vital veins in the brain,” according to the charity. It added, “At almost 4 years old, Arthur and Bernardo were also the oldest craniopagus twins with a fused brain to be separated, bringing added complications.”

The Instituto Estadual do Cérebro Paulo Niemeyer in Rio de Janeiro, which had treated the twins since 2018, approached the charity for assistance after being told multiple times that separating them would be impossible.

With such a complex series of surgeries, the charity enlisted the help of medical professionals across the globe under the leadership of Great Ormond Street Hospital pediatric surgeon Noor ul Owase Jeelani. The team spent months preparing for the surgery and included a “trial surgery conducted cross-continentally in virtual reality” based on CT and MRI scans, an approach Jeelani described as “space-age stuff.”

“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,” Jeelani told the Evening Standard.

Jeelani traveled to Brazil to perform the final 27-hour-long surgery, taking only 15-minute breaks to eat and drink. Despite feeling “absolutely shattered” by the procedure, he felt “wonderful” to see the family “over the moon” by the end.

“There were a lot of tears and hugs,” he said, adding, “It was wonderful to be able to help them on this journey.”

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Following the surgery, Jeelani said the twins’ blood pressure and heart rate went “through the roof,” settling only four days later after they were placed in front of each other and could touch hands. They will continue being monitored and receiving treatment at the institute for the next six months.

Also with the success of the surgery, the Brazilian institute will become a Gemini Global Partner hub to help craniopagus twins in Latin America. It will also be Jeelani’s sixth separation procedure with the charity. He had previously operated on twins from Pakistan, Israel, Sudan and Turkey. 

“The successful separation of Bernardo and Arthur is a remarkable achievement by the team in Rio and a fantastic example of why the work of Gemini Untwined is so valuable,” Jeelani told The Independent. He added: “Not only have we provided a new future for the boys and their family, we have equipped the local team with the capabilities and confidence to undertake such complex work successfully again in the future. It is through this process of teamwork and knowledge-sharing globally that we can hope to improve the outcome for all children and families that find themselves in this difficult position.”

Incidences of craniopagus children are a rare occurrence, accounting for only 2–6 percent of conjoined twins, or 1 in 2.5 million live births. Approximately 50 such children are born every year, with only about 15 surviving beyond 30 days. About 78 percent die by the first year of life and 90 percent by age 10, according to Gemini Untwined. It added that the optimal time for separation is between 6 and 12 months old.

We are glad Bernardo and Arthur’s surgery was a success and we wish Gemini Untwined well on its mission to help craniopagus twins across the world.

How incredible is the work of surgeon Noor ul Owase Jeelani and his team! Do you know of any other stories of twins being separated? Let us know and pass this on to family and friends so they can read about it too.

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