Surgery Successfully Separates Twin Girls Joined at Head

In early pregnancy, the embryo splits into two in case of identical twins. When the embryo does not separate this way, it results in conjoined twins. Conjoined twins are rare occurrences. About one in every 200,000 births is conjoined twins. Rarest of this rare case is that of twins conjoined at the head, referred to as craniopagus twins. They account for some 2% of conjoined twins. Most craniopagus twins do not survive, because of the condition’s severity.

Riley and Heather Delaney learnt in the 11th week of pregnancy that their twin babies were craniopagus. The babies Abby and Erin were 10 weeks pre-maturely delivered on July 24, 2016 via a C-section operation, weighing approximately 2 pounds each.

For separating such twins, they have to undergo a very complex surgery which would be followed by a complicated and long recovery. This kind of separation surgery also has ethical considerations as the twins may die during the procedure, or one may survive and the other may die or has poor neurological conditions.

Doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in southeastern Pennsylvania planned and prepared for months to perform this operation, which is one of the world’s rarest surgeries, on Abby and Erin to separate them. The 11-hour long operation was carried out successfully at the hospital on June 7, 2017.

A team of more than 30 surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses were involved in the complicated surgery. This is the first craniopagus twins separation operation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia which had previously, over the last sixty years, separated 22 other pairs of conjoined twins. They color coded the surgical equipment in purple and green tape so that only one color will be used for each infant. The surgeons initially separated the shared blood vessels and dura -the tough membrane that protectively surrounded the brains of the infants.

The highly-feared complication and the most diligent procedure carried out during the high-risk surgery was the splitting of the sagittal sinus, which is a big vein that passes over the skull’s top carrying blood from the brain to the heart. After the successful separation of these, the medical team separated into two teams, each to reconstruct the heads of each infant. The surgery was a big success!

However, the surgery separating the twins is mentioned to have been ‘successful’ in just one sense. That is, the twins have been separated, and they are healthy and alive. However, the other part is that they have to be healthy and alive in the long run as well. This is a challenge for the medical team and the family.

The separated infants are now recovering in the pediatric ICU of the hospital under close monitoring by expert medical teams. They will probably need more surgeries, but the hospital has planned to send them home this year, and the family is planning to celebrate their first birthday back home in a grand manner!

Share This Article

Written by

Total Views: 1,116 views