VR Tech Enables Craniopagus Twin Separation Surgeries

The broad range of applications for virtual reality technology in the healthcare space has made it an increasingly prominent presence in some of the most eye-catching medical headlines. While also powering more commonplace matters such as vision tests, lower back therapies, and much more, VR’s role in preoperative training as well as live guidance for complex surgical procedures is putting the full breadth of its capabilities on display.

Physicians in the U.K. and Brazil have reported a successful, VR-led surgery that accomplished a truly rare feat: separating twins conjoined at the skull. Having been born craniopagus, with blood vessels and brain tissue fused together, the twins and their family were turned away time and time again for the risky separation procedure. Finally, after an extensive and desperate search, they linked up with the charity Gemini Untwined and its founder, Noor Ul Owase Jeelani, M.B.B.S., who collaborated with the team at Rio’s Instituto Estadual do Cérebro Paulo Niemeyer to complete the procedure.

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VR models of the twins were created with their CT and MRI scans, and the models were run through endless real-time surgical scenarios. Already quite an undertaking, the procedure was further complicated by the twins’ advanced age—four years old. They are now the “oldest craniopagus twins with a fused brain to be separated,” according to Gemini Untwined. Almost 100 clinicians and seven individual surgeries later, the now-separated twins are set to enter a six-month rehabilitation program in Rio.