Separating Conjoined Twins Surgery in Texas
It’s rare to find conjoined twins. That’s in part because being born conjoined only happens about once for every 200,000 births. Many of those are stillborn. Some are born alive, but do not survive. In fact, only about 35 percent live for more than a day. For those that do survive, one more reason it’s rare to see conjoined twins is because technology now often allows us to safely separate them.
Since they are so rare, we often hear about them in the news when they do survive. Such is the case today. We are following the story of two conjoined girls in Texas.
Facts About Conjoined Twins
You may be wondering how conjoined twins form in the first place. It happens when a fertilized egg begins to separate into two fetuses—but the separation does not complete. Determining whether it is possible to separate these twins depends on the details of how they’re joined.
Doctors must assess where their bodies are fused together. They must look at which organs are shared. It is a very intensive surgery no matter what. It involves multiple stages. It also requires a large team of surgeons to conduct each stage. Often, specialists from many different areas all must work together. They must work in teams to both separate and reconstruct all in the same procedure.
Sometimes it’s not safe to do the surgery at all. The Case in Texas Right now two conjoined babies in Texas are starting their process. Two little girls – Knatalye Hope Mata and Adeline Faith Mata – will hopefully be successfully separated later this year. The girls were born prematurely back in April. They’re being cared for at the neonatal intensive care unit at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. Since they were premature, even some of their organs that are not shared were not fully formed at birth. As such, the doctors needed to wait on them to gain strength.
They are hoping to conduct the procedure in December. First, though, they must start the process of helping the girls grow more skin to be used in the reconstruction. Since they are joined at the chest, tissue expanders were inserted there. This allows the skin to stretch.
Over time it allows for new skin to grow. The process takes 6-8 weeks. The girls share a single liver, diaphragm, pelvis, and lining of the heart. Obviously, this means that a lot of specialists will need to be involved in their separation. The hospital is planning a team that includes members from:
- pediatric general surgery
- plastic surgery
- cardiac surgery
- orthopedic surgery
It’s really three surgeries in one. One surgery to separate the girls, and then a separate reconstructive surgery for each infant, done at the same time. When it’s done, even if 100% successful, this will not be the end of their journey.
Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith will probably need future procedures too. Orthopedic surgery to help them walk is a high likelihood. That said, the doctors think they have very high chances of going on to live fully independent lives.