Virtual reality technology helps separate conjoined twins

8th August 2022
Paige West

Almost four-year-old conjoined Brazilian twins, Arthur, and Bernardo have been successfully separated with the help of virtual reality technology.

The twins were born in Northern Brazil in 2018. Born as craniopagus twins (joined at the head), they were transferred to Rio de Janeiro where they stayed for two and a half years in the care of the medical team at the Instituto Estadual do Cérebro Paulo Niemeyer.

Earlier this year, procedures began to separate the twins. Nearly 100 medical staff and seven separate surgeries were involved – 33 hours of operating time was needed for the final two surgeries alone.

Gemini Untwined, the charity who funded the surgery, said that the separation was the most challenging to date as the boys shared the same vital veins in the brain and, they were also the oldest craniopagus twins with a fused brain to be separated.

The surgery, however, was a resounding success.

Months of preparation was required, with expertise shared between the medical team in Brazil and Gemini Untwined in the UK.

Notably, a trail surgery was conducted remotely using virtual reality – the first time such technology has been used for this purpose in Brazil.

Noor ul Owase Jeelani, the team leader for Gemini Untwined, told the BBC that: “For the first time, surgeons in separate countries wore headsets and operated in the same “virtual reality room” together.”

Virtual reality is being used more and more in hospitals by doctors and healthcare professionals to provide them with a hands-free working environment and greater flexibility.

Doctors have been wearing the Microsoft Hololens headsets whilst working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, to aid them in their care for their patients.

CMR Surgical (CMR), a global surgical robotics business, has recently launched a virtual reality headset and VR professional education programme for its Versius Surgical Robotic System. Versius becomes the first soft-tissue surgical robotics system to offer VR training as part of its surgical team training pathway; giving surgical teams increased flexibility to practice their skills.

It’s great to see the technology being used in such important circumstances and, as more medical professionals and healthcare providers recognise the benefits of the technology, we will hopefully be hearing more successful stories such as the one of Arthur and Bernardo.

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