The Longest Surgery of All Time

The longest surgery on record occurred in 2001 and lasted more than four straight days — 103 hours to be exact. A team of 20 doctors at Singapore General Hospital worked in shifts to separate Ganga and Jamuna Shrestha, 11-month-old twins conjoined at the head. Not only did the girls share a cranial cavity, their brains were partially fused. Typically, such separation procedures might take 30 hours — still an eternity in surgical terms — but once underway, doctors discovered that the girls' brains were even more tightly enmeshed than expected. That meant doctors had to individually coagulate, separate, and divide hundreds of blood vessels that were going between the two brains and all the brain tissue that was adherent. The surgery was facilitated by computer-imaging technology that allowed surgeons to create 3D scans of the sisters' brains and to rehearse in advance. Most important, the operation was a success: Though Ganga contracted meningitis seven years afterward and passed away, Jamuna is now 15, alert and well, and can talk, sing, and attend school.