Arthur and Bernardo, conjoined twins from Brazil, have finally had the opportunity to see each other face to face after undergoing a remarkable surgical separation. The complex procedure, which involved fused brains, was made possible with the aid of virtual reality technology.
Being craniopagus twins, the boys, who are nearly 4 years old, had spent their lives conjoined at the top of their heads, facing opposite directions. The Instituto Estadual do Cérebro Paulo Niemeyer (Paulo Niemeyer State Brain Institute) in Rio de Janeiro had been caring for them for the past two and a half years. Surgeon Noor ul Owase Jeelani, the founder of medical charity Gemini Untwined, spearheaded the surgery and led a team of nearly 100 medical professionals who dedicated months of preparation for the complex separation.
In a groundbreaking approach, surgeons from different countries collaborated by operating in the same virtual reality room, wearing VR headsets. This allowed them to study the intricate anatomy and plan the surgery with precision before exposing the children to any risks. Jeelani described the experience as awe-inspiring, stating, “To do it in virtual reality was just really man-on-Mars stuff.”
Despite previous unsuccessful attempts at separation, the surgical team persevered. The procedure, which lasted over 33 hours, was carried out successfully in June, despite the added challenge of scar tissue. Neurosurgeon Gabriel Mufarrej of the Paulo Niemeyer State Brain Institute referred to it as the most complex surgery of his career, expressing initial doubts about the twins’ chances of survival. However, both boys defied the odds.
In the aftermath of the surgery, the boys’ heart rates and blood pressure remained elevated for four days until the touching moment when they were reunited and held hands. This heartwarming gesture marked a turning point in their recovery.
Arthur and Bernardo are now the oldest twins with fused brains to be successfully separated. They will undergo six months of rehabilitation as they embark on their journey to a brighter future. The Lima family and the global medical team involved in their care deserve congratulations for their dedication, perseverance, and the innovative use of modern technology to transform the lives of these young boys.