Saturday, May 5, 2018

Doctors Separate Twins Joined At The Heart With Rare Surgery

When you're expecting conjoined twins, it's hard not to feel like the odds are against you. No matter how things turn out, it's difficult to prepare for the coming little ones because the condition only appears in about one in 200,000 live births. So the comfort of a routine procedure is already out the window.

Unfortunately, the other statistics we have on conjoined twins are even sadder. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, between 40 and 60 percent of conjoined twins are stillborn and 35 percent only live for one day after birth. They estimate that only five to 25 percent of these twins survive and these odds change depending on how the two babies are connected.

When the connection takes place at the heart, new parents are often advised to prepare for the worst. This was exactly the situation Mark and Jacquelyn Phillips were forced to deal with, but their story reminds us of the importance of keeping hope alive.

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At first, Phillips was under the impression she was only having one child.

Doctors had picked up only one heartbeat in sonograms, but this was because the twins' hearts were beating in sync.

Then, the frightening truth revealed itself during a routine ultrasound to find out the baby's sex.

Not only did they find out they had twins, but they discovered the babies' hearts and livers were connected. Moreover, one of them had a hole in her heart.

At first, the Phillips family was told their new twins had no chance of survival.

Doctors advised them to end the pregnancy, but their insurance company denied the termination because Jacqueline's life wasn't in danger. So they let the pregnancy develop and began a difficult search for a doctor that could save their children.

They finally found hope at the University of Florida.

Fetal cardiac specialist Dr. Jennifer Co-Vu examined the twins and said it was possible to separate them, but it would be an extremely risky procedure.

Mark Bleiweis, the lead surgeon involved, said, “It was a really complex connection because it was close to very important veins in the hearts of both babies. In the world, there have not been many successful separations with a cardiac connection."

But that wasn't the only obstacle the surgery team had to deal with.

The twins' livers were so tightly connected that it was hard to tell when one began and the other ended.

To the doctors, it looked like the babies shared one giant liver, which left them without a clear picture of how they were going to separate it.

To get around this problem, surgeons used a live ultrasound to guide their operation.

With this, they were able to find linkage points that didn't have any major blood vessels in the way.

As for the hearts, the team came up with a ground-breaking solution to separate them.

They used CT and MRI scans to create what may be the world's first 3D printed conjoined twin heart. This model allowed for an accurate and safe look at the shared structures of the babies' hearts and helped them effectively plan the operation.

Fortunately, the procedure was a success.

It took over six hours, four surgeons, and at least four additional teams, but Savannah Grace and Scarlett Angela Phillips are alive and no longer conjoined.

However, their time at the hospital was far from over.

Doctors needed to repair the areas where the twins were connected and they both underwent about a dozen surgeries each.

With so much to go through, the twins had to spend two months in intensive care.

Yet, Bleiweis said they have a very optimistic outlook and they were recently able to attend a press conference in their carriers.

The Phillips family is expected to bring their new members home in about a week.

Bleiweis said, “I know that Mark and Jackie were told by many not to pursue this because it was daunting, and it could not and would not be successful. Nothing gives us greater satisfaction than seeing the two twins separated, and to see both parents holding their twins.”

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Author: verified_user