Newborn twins
A pair of conjoined twins with a rare condition were recently surgically separated in the U.K. Photo Credit: Multiple Parent/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

A pair of conjoined twins were recently surgically separated in Britain. They had been born joined at the head. The babies were born nearly one year ago, and had to be flown to England in order to undergo the surgery.

Procedures took 40 hours to complete

A set of Sudanese conjoined twins have been separated by surgeons in Britain. According to ABC, a scan during pregnancy revealed Ritag and Rital Gaboura, now 11 months old, were joined at the the tops of their heads. The family lives in Sudan. Though both parents are doctors, they lacked the resources to pay for separating the girls surgically.

Facing the World, a charity that assists disfigured children, offered to help pay for the surgeries. The twins had to undergo four separate procedures in all, according to the BBC. The last procedure was the separation. The first two procedures separated the twins’ brains and their brains’ blood supply. The third involved inserting “tissue expanders” to grow and stretch new skin. The procedures took almost 40 hours in total.

Odds stacked against them

The twins were born with an incredibly rare condition and faced long odds of surviving, let alone being separated surgically. According to Wikipedia, conjoined twins occur in once in every 50,000 to 100,000 births and half are still-born. Of those who survive birth, only about 25 percent survive infancy.

The condition the twins were born with, called craniopagus twins, occurs in one in 2.5 million births or about 4 percent of conjoined twins, according to the Daily Mail. About 75 percent of conjoined twins are joined at the torso. The odds of survival are about 1 in 10 million for the Gaboura twins.

Surgeons at Great Ormond Hospital, according to USA Today, performed the first two operations in May. The third operation took place in July, and the last was performed on Sunday, Aug. 18.

Going strong a month later

Rital and Ritag both are in excellent health. Dr. Enas Gaboura, their mother, says the twins are adjusting to being separated and are already learning to “share their toys,” according to the BBC. Dr. Abdelmageed Gaboura, the father and a practicing obstetrician in Khartoum, said it was “a great gift” to have the twins separated and healthy.

The National Health Service, health care service of the United Kingdom, didn’t contribute to paying for the surgery. Doctors performed the surgeries pro bono. Facing the World paid for travel and medical care. The costs, according to the BBC, are about 400,000 pounds (about $630,000).

One of the first successful craniopagus twin separations, according to USA Today, was performed in 1956. A set of Filipino twins underwent similar treatment in New York in 2004, as did a set of Egyptian craniopagus twins in Dallas in 2003.

Sources

ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/uk-doctors-beat-odds-split-twins-joined-head-14548492

USA Today: http://yourlife.usatoday.com/health/medical/story/2011-09-19/UK-surgeons-separate-twin-girls-joined-at-head/50463672/1

BBC:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14978436

Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2039009/Conjoined-twins-Rital-Ritag-Gaboura-separated-A-1-10m-success.html

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjoined_twins

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