An incredible and historic surgery just took place in Brazil when two conjoined twins with fused brains were separated.

Pediatric surgeon Noor ul Owase Jeelani of London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital helped perform the surgery. Virtual reality technology enabled him and many other surgeons from all over the world to participate.

Completion of the successful operation, which was performed on Bernardo and Arthur Lima, was announced on August 1 by the charity Gemini Untwined, a global nonprofit providing treatment for cranial conjoined twins. Miraculously, both twins survived a total of seven procedures at Instituto Estadual do Cerebro Paulo Niemeyer in Rio de Janeiro.

The fact that the 3-year-olds were able to survive so many challenging surgeries is nothing short of incredible. But the final two surgeries were a test of both the twins’ strength and the skills of the doctors performing them. The final two surgeries took 33 hours to complete in total with more than 100 medical staff attending, according to Evening Standard.

The stunning surgery embraced virtual reality technology. Surgeons and other medical professionsl used virtual reality training programs for months in order to prepare. Jeelani called the operation a “remarkable achievement.”

The technology enabled surgeons from several different countries to be present in the same virtual reality room and work together on the operation. It marks the first time a surgery like this has ever been performed.

Jeelani was concerned about whether or not the surgery would be successful, especially because past attempts to separate the twins had failed. Now he’s thrilled with the results. “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,” he said.

“You can imagine how reassuring that is for the surgeons,” he continued. “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.”

The doctor also noted that after the surgery, because it was the first time the boys had been separated, their blood pressures went “through the roof” until they were reunited and able to touch.

Jeelani said that the completion of the surgery was absolutely emotional for everyone involved. “There were a lot of tears and hugs,” he said. “It was wonderful to be able to help them on this journey.”

He’s also hopeful that the charity will lead to many more successful surgeries on this kind. “The idea behind the charity was to create a global health service for super-rare cases to try and improve results for these kids,” he said. “The model of what we have done, I think, can and should be replicated for other super-rare conditions.”

 

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