Conjoined Twins Separated Through Surgery

On September 9, 2015 Jadon and Anias McDonald were born to Nicole and Christian McDonald. They were just like any other twin boys except that they were joined at the head. This means that they were craniopagus twins. The surgery performed by Dr. James Goodrich was the fourth surgery in a series of procedures designed to safely separate the twins. The separation itself took 16 hours followed by more work by a plastic surgeon to repair the babies' skulls.

This marked the seventh and longest such surgery to be performed by Goodrich. It was also only the 59th such procedure to be done in the world since 1952.

The parents had a tough decision to make going into the surgery because the procedure came with serious risks to the health of both boys. Both could have died or faced severe brain damage from this surgery. However, not operating also had risks: 80% of conjoined twins die of complications by age two if not separated.

Around 3 AM, Dr. Goodrich informed the parents that the surgery had been successful and they now have two separate sons. The moment brought relief to the agonizing parents of the beautiful little boys that had just gone through a massive ordeal.

Before the 1980s, it was commonplace to have to let one child die on the operating table to assure that the other child would survive.  Often, both children would die. If one child did survive, they often had brain damage as a result.

James Goodrich is considered a pioneer in this field for establishing a method to separate twins over time, rather than in one exhaustive 50-hour surgery. Jadon and Anias have had three previous surgical operations resulting in their brains being slowly separated over time.

To prepare for this feat, both doctors practiced with a replica of the boys' heads as a reference. The 3D replica shows exactly where the blood vessels are shared between the boys. It also shows that the babies share an inch and a half of brain matter.

In the previous surgeries, doctors added tissue expanders so there would be enough skin to cover their skulls when they went through with the actual separation procedure. While the family awaited good news in the waiting room at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, they would check in on Twitter. People were sending their love and encouragement to the family via #JadonAndAnias. They also watched as thousands of dollars were donated to the family via the GoFundMe page for the boys.

People sent messages to the family saying this story has restored their faith in humanity and given them hope in the midst of the more depressing headlines regarding the current political climate.

The surgery was intense and meticulously performed and after nearly 16 and a half hours of careful work on the part of the surgical team, these boys are now living as two separate individuals for the first time in their young lives.

Tags : medical science, children