Israeli Hospital Separates Dead Siamese Twin From Living Sibling

Dan Even
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Dan Even

The first operation in Israel to separate a rare type of Siamese, or conjoined, twins was carried out in Haifa's Rambam Medical Center. Although one twin was stillborn and the second is fighting for his life, the operation on Monday is still being considered a success.

Doctors used complex surgery to separate the extremely rare linkage of the infants, where one was not fully developed but had merged into the other's body.

The twin who was stillborn had only two legs, pelvis, digestive system, kidney and two hands, but no head or heart. The surviving twin had all his body parts, the hospital said.

The mother, a woman in her 20s, gave birth to conjoined twins at the end of last week in a Nazareth hospital. The twins' bodies had merged together in an extremely rare way. Only 150 such cases have been recorded in the past 126 years.

The twins were taken to Rambam for an operation to separate the live twin from his sibling. The hospital said "the surviving twin's life was in danger due to the rare deformity as well as a severe heart deformity. The doctors are fighting for his life."

"When the fertilized egg separates and divides after fertilization at an early stage, two separate pregnancy sacs are formed, from which non-identical twins may develop. In a later separation identical twins develop in one pregnancy sac, while in a much later separation conjoined twins could develop, or one twin with only some of his body parts, like in the present case," said Prof. Ido Sholet, head of the High-Risk Pregnancy Unit at Rambam.

The four-hour surgery was performed after the twins had been given a CT test so doctors could understand their complex anatomical structure.

The separation was planned in a meeting of all the teams involved, including preemies' doctors, heart surgeons, urologists and pediatric surgeons.

"Operations of this kind are extremely complex, with high mortality rates. In many of the cases the infant has a heart deformity, as in this case, which threatens his life," said Dr. Ran Steinberg, head of pediatric surgery at Rambam.

Haifa's Rambam Health Care Campus.Credit: Tomer Noiberg
CT scan of the Siamese twins.Credit: Rambam spokesperson