What was the Longest Surgery in History?

In the annals of medical history, where every breakthrough and achievement shines as a testament to human determination, the tale of the longest surgery stands as a beacon of courage, innovation, and the unrelenting pursuit of saving lives. In 2001, within the walls of Singapore General Hospital, an extraordinary team of twenty doctors embarked on a journey spanning an astonishing four days—103 hours, making it the longest surgery in history.

The mission? To separate Ganga and Jamuna Shrestha, a pair of conjoined twins united at the head, bound by physical and neural connections.

A Daunting Challenge

Conjoined at the head, the 11-month-old twins shared a cranial cavity and a complex network of fused brain tissue. The surgery normally requires around 30 hours. However, these brave surgeons found themselves in uncharted territory during the procedure as they discovered that the two brains were intricately fused, necessitating the careful coagulation, separation, and division of the interconnected blood vessels. This involved tracing and distinguishing the numerous tiny blood vessels associated with each girl. Additionally, their brains were not simply linked; rather, they were intertwined, contributing to the intricacy of the situation. Ultimately, the skulls of both twins had to be remodeled, utilizing a combination of bone substance and Gore-Tex fibers.

Harnessing Advanced Technology

Computer-imaging technology facilitated 3D brain scans, which proved vital for intricate surgery on conjoined twins. This innovation revolutionized surgical approaches and extended beyond the operating room.

Dr. Ben Carson, a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon who, in 1987, was the first to separate craniopagus twins without causing brain damage, elevated his global reputation, leading him to advise the Singapore surgical team in the extensive preparation before the separation of the conjoined twins.

Forging a New Horizon

Innovative surgical techniques formed the bedrock of this marathon surgical accomplishment. Dr. Carson’s expertise proved invaluable as he guided the Singaporean surgical team during the exhaustive preparatory phase leading up to the surgery. Leveraging the revolutionary imaging software, a symphony of scans merged to form a 3D virtual model of the twins’ intertwined brains. Over six months, the Singaporean surgeons studied these intricate models, perfecting their technique and rehearsing the procedure virtually. With 3D glasses perched atop their noses, they manipulated the virtual image with their bare hands, bypassing buttons, keyboards, and a mouse.

The Triumph Over Odds: The Outcome?

The heart of any medical endeavor lies in the outcome, and in this marathon of surgical prowess, the result was nothing short of miraculous. Although Ganga’s journey took an unfortunate turn as she contracted meningitis seven years after surgery and passed away, Jamuna emerged as a living testament to the power of medicine and human resilience. At 15 years old, she thrives—attending school, conversing, singing—a remarkable testament to the fortitude of medical pioneers.


The tale of the 103-hour surgery encapsulates the incredible capabilities of the human spirit. It demonstrates the heights we can achieve when medical brilliance converges with technological innovation. As the years have rolled on, this landmark achievement continues to inspire and redefine the boundaries of medical possibilities.

Reflecting on Singapore’s saga of audacity, resilience, and innovative surgical techniques, we recognize that the bounds of human achievement are limited only by our willingness to explore uncharted territories.


  1. What Was the Longest Surgery Of All Time? [Cited: August 11, 2023]. Available from: https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/a20571/longest-surgery-of-all-time/
  2. Nepalese babies survive a 103-hour operation. [Cited: August 11, 2023]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/apr/11/sarahboseley.johnaglionby
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