Kashmir-origin doctor separates conjoined twins in Brazil’s first virtual reality surgery: The future of medicine is now

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Kashmir-origin doctor separates conjoined twins in Brazil’s first virtual reality surgery: The future of medicine is now


Two Brazilian twins who were conjoined at the head were successfully separated in a final 27-hour long surgery becoming the oldest twins to have survived such a procedure. It was also reportedly the first time that a medical team trained in virtual reality across continents to carry out this complex operation.

A renowned surgeon of Kashmir origin Dr Noor ul Owase Jeelani and his team have successfully separated Brazilian twins who were fused at the brain. That the children survived the tricky operation is not all that is remarkable about the feat. For the first time in Brazil, surgeons practiced for this complicated procedure in a virtual operation theatre that straddled South America and Europe.

Gemini Untwined, the London-based medical charity that helped the parents of 3-year-old boys Bernado and Arthur Lima access the surgery, said that it was “the most challenging and complex surgery till date” because the brothers shared vital blood vessels.

To save time and reduce risk to the children, the surgeons undertaking this gruelling operation needed to know exactly what they would find upon opening the boys’ cranium. They needed to know precisely where to make incisions and how to reconstruct skin and tissues to separate the twins.

For their homework, they clamped on headsets to enter an online training session, where they were able to conduct mock ‘practice’ surgeries in virtual reality. The VR simulations enabled doctors in Brazil and London enter the same operation theatre and train using virtual reality projections of the twins, based on CT and MRI scans

The team spent months trialling and fine tuning techniques that they would use when the children were on the operation table before them. The craniopagus – joined at the brain – twins had had more than seven surgeries and the final one stretched for 27 hours, with the medical team working continuously, only to stop for four 15-minute breaks for food and water

Dr Jeelani, who practices at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in UK and is the lead surgeon for Gemini Untwined which he founded in 2018, described the operation as “space-age stuff”.

He said it was the first time that teams in two countries operated in the same virtual reality room together, making medicine ‘without frontiers’ quite literally possible.

Headlines speak of virtual reality as a largely commercialised space where people may one day be able to shop and entertain themselves, stripping it of its more meaningful applications that make the technology truly revolutionary. The virtual reality operating room is only one such fine example of innovation that can enrich human lives

Gizmodo notes that surgeons, firefighters, pilots, oil barrackworkers, and even police have trained in virtual reality for years.

The metaverse is more than just a place to trap consumers, it widens the scope for education, healthcare as well as business, provided uninterrupted access to the internet and high network speed becomes democratic throughout the world

A complex surgery

The twins Bernado and Arthur Lima had spent all of their lives so far in hospitals. Due to previous unsuccessful surgeries, the boys had a lot of scar tissue that complicated the procedure and Dr Jeelani said that he was “really apprehensive” about separating them. Their chance of survival was so low that doctors were pleasantly surprised when they made it through

Neurosurgeon Gabriel Mufarrej of the Paulo Niemeyer State Brain Institute in Rio, where the procedure was performed, told the media, “The twins had the most serious and difficult version of the condition, with the highest risk of death for both… It is already historic that both of them could be saved

Dr Jeelani, who has led five successful operations of conjoined twins before this one, revealed that all such siblings report incredibly high blood pressure and heart rate post the surgeries. He told BBC that they stabilised after the boys were reunited four days later and touched hands

Bernardo and Arthur who are almost four years old are the oldest craniopagus twins to have been separated, reports said.

“We don’t know yet to what extent they will be able to live a normal life,” Mufarrej told the media

The boys are still in hospital where they will convalesce for at least 6 months. They will finally be able to celebrate their fourth birthdays as separate individuals

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