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Preparing for the Separation of Conjoined Twins at Mayo Clinic

Imagine an operating room: surgeons, nurses, technicians, equipment, special lighting, and trays of instruments, masks, gloves, sterility, and a patient needing treatment. Add to this picture, medical illustrations posted on the walls providing the surgical team with a common vision of what’s to come once surgery begins. Add an artist, sketchbook in hand, garbed in surgical attire, poised to document the course of surgery. Image

Medical illustrators are part of Mayo’s surgical planning team, providing the surgical staff a singular vision of what will be found inside the patient’s body. Their illustrations represent the anatomic synthesis of individual images from X–rays and CT scans to prepare the course of surgery. Medical illustrations document innovative surgical techniques live as the surgery occurs. Their drawings teach others within the surgical profession and at medical schools.

How did medical illustration impact the separation surgery of conjoined twins Abbigail and Isabelle Carlsen at Mayo Clinic? Dr. Christopher Moir, lead surgeon, explains, “I cannot overstate the clinical importance of having medical illustrators on the care team. They were able to show us what we could not directly observe during our surgical planning. What we encountered in surgery was precisely what medical illustrator Michael King depicted in his illustrations. He did it in a way that no other medium could.”

Did you know?

  • A medical illustrator speaks in a universal language. Visual imagery is a key to effective scientific communication.
  • Medical illustrators are highly skilled, professional artists trained in science and medicine, anatomy, and physiology.
  • Medical illustrators are well trained to converse and collaborate with physicians, researchers, and other health-science professionals.
  • A professional medical illustrator can quickly grasp the essence of scientific data and transform highly technical content into a clear and concise visual story that explains and teaches.
  • With color, clever visual cues, and imagination, a medical illustrator can transport the viewer into unseen worlds-the circuitry of a brain with Alzheimer's disease, the lining of an atherosclerotic blood vessel, the site of action for an anti-diabetic drug.
  • While cameras can capture only what exists and can be seen, medical illustrators can create, edit, and emphasize a much more effective story.