Technology’s Role in the Iranian Separation Surgery

By Deane Barker on September 12, 2003

Till Death Do Us Part: An extremely interesting story in Wired about the attempted separation of those Iranian twins a few months ago. This piece lays some of the blame on a technological failure. Doctors depended on a 3D imaging system that didn’t reveal the presence of a massive vein until doctors found it, 30 hours into the surgery.

“Finally, with the new vein in place, Ohata released the clamps and let blood pump through the vessel. For an hour, everything worked perfectly. Then, just as they were about to begin carefully cutting the two brains apart, the flow decreased and a clot formed in the grafted vein. Pressure in the brain didn’t spike, which meant that blood wasn’t backing up — it was taking an alternate path.

The 3-D images showed no other vessels that could carry that much blood. Ohata surveyed the exposed area, and that’s when he saw it: the edge of a massive vein near the base of the women’s skulls. The team glanced at the image guidance monitor — this was what the x-ray vision was supposed to show them. But according to the model, the vein didn’t exist.

Ohata collapsed in a chair. The neurosurgeons were stunned.”