A highly complex series of surgeries have separated rare conjoined twin baby girls at London’s Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. Doctors saying the girls have overcome “10 million-to-one” odds.
Twins born joined at the head, known as craniopagus twins, occur in about one in 2.5 million births. Separating them can be dangerous, especially if - as in this case - there's significant blood flow between their brains.
"It's extremely high-risk," said Dr. James Goodrich, who coordinated a similar separation of conjoined twins at New York's Montefiore Children's Hospital in 2004.
Sudan-born Rital and Ritag Gaboura will celebrate their first birthday next week as a newly separated duo. They were so called type three craniopagus twins, meaning that significant blood flowed between their brains presenting surgeons with a particularly difficult challenge as Ritag supplied half her sister’s brain with blood, whilst draining most of it back to her heart, therefore doing most of the work.
Abdelmajeed Gaboura, 31, and, Enas, 27 are their parents who are both doctors who asked Facing the World, a charity that helps children who are disfigured to fund the surgery.
In a statement, the parents said, "We were worried about the possibility of losing one or both of our daughters during surgery - the possibilities were endless."
The separation took place in four stages. Two operations took place in May. Tissue expanders - essentially balloons intended to help stretch the babies' skin over their heads - were inserted in July. The final separation took place on Aug. 15.
David Dunaway, a surgeon in the plastic surgery and craniofacial unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital who led the separation of the girls has said, “The incidences of surviving twins with this condition is extremely rare.”
However, the alternative can be just as bad. Conjoined twins almost never pump the blood across their bodies evenly; the stronger sibling strains his/her heart trying to pick up the slack. Facing the World said Ritag's overworked heart was already failing by the time her family arrived in Britain in April.
Though rare, operations to separate twins linked by their heads aren't unheard of. The U.S. National Library of Medicine records that one of the first successful operations to separate craniopagus twins took place in 1956.
"We did not believe it at first, it was a miracle. We never thought that we would have two normal girls. In fact I was unable to imagine what they would look like after separation until the first time I saw them,” said the parents after the final operation.
Any significant drop in blood pressure during surgery could have caused brain damage. Yet Surgeons said Monday that one-year-old conjoined twins from Sudan were recovering well despite huge odds.
The twin’s father said, "I was preparing myself to live with conjoined twins forever but I think we are lucky to have two normal separate children.”