City operation separates conjoined twins

Cai Wenjun
Doctors at Fudan University's children's hospital use 3D printing technology to prepare for surgery on twin girls who were both in poor health.
Cai Wenjun
City operation separates conjoined twins
Ti Gong

The conjoined twins before they were separated in a successful operation by doctors at the Children's Hospital of Fudan University.

Conjoined girls underwent successful surgery to separate them at a local hospital on Tuesday.

The 36-day-old girls were connected at their stomachs and shared a liver. One has serious congenital heart disease and was using her sister's blood through abnormal blood vessels connecting each other, resulting in the other girl’s poor health.

Using 3D printing technology, doctors were able to make very detailed plans to deal with any emergency during surgery, said Dr Zhai Xiaowen, vice president of the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University.

The 33-year-old mother, a farmer in Shandong Province, has one child but had suffered repeated miscarriages. Prenatal checks in her hometown found an abnormality and the couple traveled to Shanghai for further consultation. 

Doctors at the Gynecology and Obstetrics Hospital of Fudan University confirmed that the babies were conjoined and one had serious heart disease. They told the parents there was a high possibility of separating the babies and that the healthy one had a good chance of survival. So the couple decided to arrange for prenatal care and delivery in Shanghai.

The twins were delivered by Caesarean at the hospital on February 17, weighing a total of 6.6 kilograms. They were transferred to the children's hospital after delivery for monitoring and care ahead of separation surgery.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city is short of blood. To ensure successful surgery, doctors and nurses organized a blood donation for the girls and other patients. Over 80 medical staff and hospital employees donated blood on March 6, the hospital said.

Doctors said detailed checks revealed that one girl had an incurable heart disease, while the other’s blood volume was low and her kidney functioned abnormal.

There were two plans. If separation went well, the girl with heart disease would undergo surgery when three months old. In the event of any emergency, doctors would operate on her heart immediately after separation to save her life. 

The operation began at 8:45am on Tuesday and surgery lasted for three hours and 24 minutes. Doctors said the girl with heart disease suffered wide fluctuations in her blood pressure, blood oxygen and heartbeat but she was finally stabilized and will now undergo heart surgery at three months.

City operation separates conjoined twins
Ti Gong

A nurse looks after the conjoined twins before surgery.

City operation separates conjoined twins
Ti Gong

Surgeons take care of the girls after they were separated on Wednesday.

City operation separates conjoined twins
Ti Gong

A 3D model of the twin girls helped doctors prepare detailed plans to separate them. 

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