Conjoined twins successfully separated after 13-hour surgery

Joshua and Jacob Spates were both born on January 24 of this year conjoined at the spine. Born six weeks early, doctors feared that the two wouldn’t be able to survive – but after a 13-hour surgery some seven months later, Joshua and Jacob were successfully separated.

The miraculous surgery was pulled off by a team of 34 pediatric surgeons at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee on August 29. The twins are currently recovering in the intensive care unit of the hospital, but doctors happily reported that the two are in remarkably good health.

Before the surgery, the twins were joined back-to-back at the pelvis and lower spine, sharing the same rectum. Shortly after their birth, doctors were forced to perform a colostomy to insert a gastrostomy tube in order to assist the twins with waste elimination and nutrition.

As with the case of all surgeries performed to separate conjoined twins, the surgeons had a monumental task before them. In order to prepare for the extensive procedure, the team rehearsed on two Cabbage Patch dolls sewn together.

“Everyone laughed about the dolls,” said Joel Saltzman, director of pediatric anesthesiology at the Memphis hospital. “But by the time the day of the surgery came, you would have thought we’d been doing it a long time.”

While currently in good health, the twins will have to contend with other health problems as well. Jacob was born with a serious congenital heart defect, and Joshua, also born with a heart defect, was born with a single kidney.

Despite the struggles ahead of them, doctors remain optimistic that the twins will make a full recovery. Bill Warner, an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital, expects that both Joshua and Jacob will be able to walk with the assistance of braces.

via Reuters, Boston

[Image copyright Lisa Buser / Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital]