Conjoined twins, how surgery can help save their lives
Conjoined twins are identical twins joined in the uterus.
It is an extremely rare phenomenon and the occurrence is estimated to range from 1 to 189, 000 births with higher incidence recorded in Africa, Brazil and Asia.
About half of conjoined twins are still born and an additional one third of the remaining half usually die within 24 hours.
Females have recorded more live births than males.
Unlike the past where most conjoined twins had rare chances of survival, technological advancement has actually increased their chances of survival.
Two girls successfully separated in Texas
Just a few months ago, a pair of conjoined twins in Texas who shared several internal organs were successfully separated in a 12 hours surgery.
The two sisters were born connected at the waist sharing vital organs such as the bladder and the colon.
The surgery which was conducted at the Driscoll children’s hospital with multiple specialists inducing plastic surgeons, pediatric surgeons, orthopedist, urologist and anesthesia successfully separated the two girls.
The doctors used a special scanner known a spy camera to study and understand complicated blood flow and what to do help them stay healthy during and after the surgical procedure.
In addition to that, surgeons used a 3D model that was specifically designed to map out the surgery.
Treatment options available
The connection between conjoined twins may range from fairly simple to very complex.
In some cases, both children may have all vital organs and structure that they need while in some, they may share vital organs like the bladder, heart and kidney.
Their bodies may be able to support each one of them individually while in some cases it may be very difficult for one or both to survive.
This means that treatment for each conjoined twins is unique.
Before birth, a specialized health care team will met to gather as much information as possible about the anatomy of the twins and how their bodies work.
The team will then use that information to come up with a treatment plan.
Before the surgical procedure begins, surgeons will first sit with the parent to explain to them the expected outcome and that include either babies surviving, one surviving or none surviving as well as how their lives will be if they are not separated.
Both parent with be the ones to make the final decision.
In most case surgery is usually conducted when the babies are at least four months old.
This give them a greater chance of survival because it is easier for the twins to survive the surgery.