In the last few years, the notion of virtual reality has turned from a desolate dream of science fiction into a widely used tool in games, workforce training and healthcare. VR headsets are used from conducting routine vision tests to lower back pain. Perhaps most impressive of all, they also provide pre-operative training and real-time guidance for surgeons conducting complex procedures.
Huge technological achievement
For the first time, the boys lay apart, face-to-face and holding hands in a shared hospital bed in Rio de Janeiro, after Brazilian and, nearly 10,000 kilometres away, London surgeons worked together using virtual reality to operate on fused 3-year-olds.
Boys are born craniopagi, meaning they are interconnected by fused skulls and intertwined brains that share vital veins. Only 1 in 60,000 births result in conjoined twins, and even fewer are conjoined cranially.
Under the guidance of pediatric surgeon Noor ul Owass Jeelani at Great Ormond Street Hospital, twins Arthur and Bernardo Lima underwent seven surgical procedures, and the final surgery itself required approximately 30 hours and nearly 100 medical professionals. It was one of the most complex separation processes in history.
To prepare for the complex procedure, surgeons teamed up with VR engineers to develop an accurate 3D model of twin anatomy using CT and MRI scans, allowing for a better perspective of their “fused brain.” Medical professionals were then able to safely experiment with a variety of surgical techniques to identify the most effective pathway.
VR technology is currently used in a number of ways in the medical field, including previous twin separation operations. But Jeelani said it was the first time the technology had been used for this purpose in Brazil. Speaking to British news agency PA Media, Jeelani said it’s great to see the anatomy and perform surgery before actually exposing the children to any risk.
The boy’s mother, Adriely Lima, expressed relief and happiness to the family as they look forward to finally bringing the twins home.
Soon on the rise: VR hospitals and universities
In the coming months, the United Arab Emirates will build a medical center in the metaverse that will allow patients to interact with doctors and treat them using avatars.
The facility will be a fully functional virtual hospital that patients can visit using a personalized 3D display. In Hong Kong, the University of Science and Technology has revealed plans to build the first Metaversities. The VR classroom hkust plans to build will be called MetaHKUST, and it will allow students from all over the world to participate in lectures as if they were in the same room.