The future of medicine is now

Meaningful Metaverse

VR simulations allowed doctors in Brazil and London to enter the same operating room and train using virtual reality projections of the twins, based on CT and MRI scans. The team spent months trying out and refining techniques they would use when the children in front of them were on the operating table.

dr. Noor ul Owase Jeelani, a renowned surgeon from Kashmir, and his team successfully separated Brazilian twins who were fused in the brain. That the children survived the grueling surgery isn’t the only remarkable thing about the achievement. For the first time in Brazil, surgeons practiced for this complicated procedure in a virtual operating room that stretched across South America and Europe.
Gemini Untwined, the London-based medical charity that helped the parents of 3-year-old boys Bernado and Arthur Lima with the surgery, said it was “the most challenging and complex surgery yet” because the brothers shared vital blood vessels.

To save time and reduce the risk to the children, the surgeons performing this grueling operation had to know exactly what they would find when opening the boys’ skulls. They had to know exactly where to make incisions and how to reconstruct skin and tissues to separate the twins.

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Conjoined twins whose brains were fused together have separated in 27-hour surgery

Conjoined twins whose brains were fused together have separated in 27-hour surgery

For their homework, they clipped on their headphones to participate in an online training session, where they could perform sham operations in virtual reality. The VR simulations allowed doctors in Brazil and London to enter the same operating room and train using virtual reality projections of the twins, based on CT and MRI scans.

The team spent months trying out and refining techniques they would use when the children in front of them were on the operating table. The craniopagus – attached to the brain – had undergone more than seven surgeries, and the last one lasted 27 hours, with the medical team working continuously, only to stop for four 15-minute breaks for food and water.

Medicine without borders

Dr Jeelani, who works at Great Ormond Street Hospital in the UK and is the chief surgeon of Gemini Untwined, which he founded in 2018, described the surgery as “space age”.

He said it was the first time teams in two countries had operated together in the same virtual reality space, making ‘borderless medicine’ literally possible.

Headlines speak of virtual reality as a largely commercialized space where people can one day shop and entertain themselves, stripping them of the more meaningful uses that make the technology truly revolutionary. The virtual reality operating room is just another great example of innovation that can enrich people’s lives. Gizmodo notes that surgeons, firefighters, pilots, oil barracks and even police have spent years training in virtual reality.
More than just a place to trap consumers, the metaverse expands the possibilities for education, healthcare and business as long as uninterrupted internet access and high network speeds become democratic around the world.

A complex operation

Twins Bernado and Arthur Lima had spent their entire lives in hospitals until now. As a result of previous failed surgeries, the boys had a lot of scar tissue that complicated the procedure and Dr Jeelani said he was “really apprehensive” about separating them. Their survival rate was so low that doctors were pleasantly surprised when they survived.

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 severe and difficult version of the condition, with the highest risk of death for both … It’s already historically that they could both be saved.”

Dr Jeelani, who has previously led five successful surgeries on conjoined twins, revealed that all of these siblings report incredibly high blood pressure and heart rate after the surgeries. He told the BBC that they stabilized after the boys reunited and touched hands four days later.

Bernardo and Arthur, who are nearly four years old, are the oldest craniopagus twins to have separated, reports say.

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

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

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