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What was Dr. Ben Carson's biggest medical challenge?

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Quick Answer

Dr. Ben Carson's biggest medical challenge occurred in 2003 when he was called upon to separate adult conjoined twins. Ladan and Laleh Bijani were Iranian twin girls who were born joined at the head. This type of surgery had never been attempted on conjoined adults because the outcome was thought to be certain death.

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Full Answer

Dr. Carson had over 20 years of experience in neurosurgery and performed several craniopagus separations of conjoined twins. He tried to talk Ladan and Laleh out of the surgery; however, after many consultations and discussions, he finally agreed to proceed.

Dr. Carson and a team of more than 100 surgeons, specialists and assistants traveled to Singapore, and on July 6, 2003, the team began the 52-hour operation. The team used a 3-D imaging technique that Dr. Carson had developed several years earlier, which allowed the team to conduct a virtual surgery before the actual surgery. A specially designed chair allowed the operation to be performed while both sisters were in a seated position.

Not only was the sisters' age problematic, but their brains shared a major blood vessel and had fused together. The separation was complete on July 8, 2003 at 1:30 p.m., but both women were in critical condition, having lost massive amounts of blood from the complications. Ladan Bijani died on the operating table, and her sister, Laleh, died less than two hours later. The loss was devastating to Dr. Carson, and his only solace was that the women's brave choice had contributed to the field and advancement of neurosurgery.

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