Twins conjoined at head separated in rare surgery

One-year-old twin girls who were born conjoined at the back of their heads have seen each other for the first time after undergoing rare separation surgery in Israel.

The 12-hour operation at the Soroka Medical Centre in the city of Beersheba last week took months of preparation, and included the scalp grafts for both.

Dozens of experts from Israel and abroad were involved.

The girls, who have not been named, are said to be recovering well.

“They are breathing and eating on their own,” Eldad Silberstein, the head of Soroka’s plastic surgery department, told Israel’s Channel 12 news.

It is the first time such an operation, which has only been conducted 20 times worldwide, has been performed in Israel.

Months before the surgery, inflatable silicone bags were inserted into their heads and periodically expanded to stretch skin. The new skin was then used to seal their heads after the skulls were reconstructed.

Preparation also included the creation of a 3D virtual reality model of the twins, said Mickey Gideon, Soroka’s chief neurosurgeon. “To our delight, everything went as we had hoped,” he added.

The girls, who were born in August 2020, are expected to lead completely normal lives.

It’s the rarest form of a rare condition – conjoined twins, fused at the head.

The BBC has been granted exclusive access to a ground-breaking series of operations in a British hospital to separate two sisters.

There is a crowd in the operating theatre. But the team of nearly 20 works as one.

Moving smoothly, every motion calculated. No signs of stress or tension, just hands methodically performing tasks.

But this is no routine operation. The shrouded shape of two small girls is picked out by the bright theatre lights. Safa and Marwa are joined at the head. Their brains are exposed as the surgeons work to separate a labyrinth of shared blood vessels.

But then the calm and peace of the theatre disappears, as anaesthetists raise the alarm.

The blood from Safa’s brain isn’t draining properly and she is shunting blood to her sister.

This puts strain on Marwa’s heart and she becomes dangerously unstable.

The anaesthetists call out commands, report vital signs and busy themselves trying to stabilise the girls. 

“I think we need to shock,” says one of them.

Pads are attached to Marwa’s chest in preparation.  -BBC

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