Recently, a pair of conjoined twins with fused heads and brains have been successfully separated with the help of virtual reality technology. The medical team described the mind-boggling surgery as “the most complex surgery of its kind.”

Born in Brazil, 3-year-olds Bernardo and Arthur Lima underwent breathtaking surgeries in Rio de Janeiro, with direction from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. The medical team was working hard and they spent months trialing techniques using virtual reality projections of the twins. The medical team in separate countries wore headsets and carried out trials in the same “virtual reality room” together.

Conjoined twins with fused brains separated with the help of virtual reality

“The twins had the most serious and difficult version of the condition, with the highest risk of death for both,” said neurosurgeon Gabriel Mufarrej of the Paulo Niemeyer State Brain Institute in Rio, where the procedure was performed.

“It was without a doubt the most complex surgery of my career,” he added. “At the beginning, nobody thought they would survive. It is already historic that both of them could be saved”.

UK-based neurosurgeon Noor ul Owase Jeelani called the virtual reality prep session “space-age stuff”. According to Gemini Untwined, the charity which funded the surgery, it is one of the most complex separation processes ever completed.

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According to the charity, one in 60,000 births results in conjoined twins, and only 5% of those are craniopagus. Craniopagus twins are conjoined twins that are fused at the cranium

The twins underwent nine surgeries, including a 13-hour operation on June 7 and a 23-hour operation the day after. In total, the surgery involved more than 27 hours of operating time and almost 100 medical staff in the final operation alone.

“It’s wonderful to be able to look at the anatomy and perform the surgery beforehand without putting the children’s lives at risk,” said Noor ul Owase Jeelani.

“You can’t imagine how reassuring this is for the surgeons. To do it in virtual reality was just really man-on-Mars stuff,” he added.

This was Mr. Jeelani’s sixth separation procedure with Gemini Untwined. Previously, Jeelani operated on twins from Pakistan, Sudan, Israel, and Turkey.

“We had been living in the hospital for four years,” the boys’ mother, Adriely Lima, said in tears after the separation.

Dr. Mufarrej said the hospital has been caring for the conjoined twins 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,” he said.

According to Dr. Mufarrej, the boys are still recovering. Further procedures will be done as they develop, doctors said. “They will take some time to get to the point where we want them to be. But I believe in them,” he said.