Conjoined twins separated.
April 10, 2001 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Conjoined twins separated. But while that operation is always challenging, this one was particularly bad. The girls were joined at the top of the head, and their brains were merged -- and shared common blood vessels. It took eight-eight hours of surgery to separate them, most of which was spent rerouting blood vessels. Both girls survived the operation. This is only the sixth time this operation has been attempted and only the second time that it has succeeded. (Vertical craniopagus is, mercifully, exceedingly rare.) The operation was only possible at all because the surgeons have spent the last four months practicing it with virtual-reality software on computers (presumably using models based on MRI). Anyone have any idea what software package they used?
posted by Steven Den Beste (14 comments total)
In related brain news, a seizure-inducing worm was removed from some lady's skull. WHAT?
posted by techgnollogic at 6:45 AM on April 10, 2001

OMG that's terrifying. A worm entering the brain? It sounds like something out of Star Trek or the X-Files. The thought of a worm crawling around in there is just incomprehensible.

posted by bkdelong at 6:59 AM on April 10, 2001

Parasites in the brain is believed to be the one of the many reasons why brain surgery was performed in ancient societies. Treating injuries and relieving pressure from tumors and "water on the brain" are some other possible reasons. And the survival rate for such operations in ancient societies was very high. The book "Ancient Inventions" has a whole chapter devoted to this subject.
posted by Potsy at 7:16 AM on April 10, 2001

Trepanation also comes to mind, Potsy. But that, of course, has been covered before.
posted by frednorman at 7:27 AM on April 10, 2001

"Anyone have any idea what software package they used?"

posted by bondcliff at 7:30 AM on April 10, 2001

I'm not sure what Keith Goh and his team used, but when Ben Carson performed the first successful separation of craniopagus twins, he used the same technique to prepare.

(from the last link) In 1997, Carson used a 3-D visual imaging system to explore the intricate neural structures of a set of craniopagus Siamese twins, twins connected at the top of the head. By looking into a reflective screen with a pair of special 3-D glasses, Carson was able to see every layer of tissue and every blood vessel of the twins' interwoven brains. The program allowed him to erase, magnify, rotate and cut through any region of the brains, giving him insight that would prove invaluable in the actual separation of the twins.

The software/hardware package may have been from Siemens Corporate Research.
posted by iceberg273 at 7:38 AM on April 10, 2001

i recall reading an article about a chinese geezer who, as a result of eating raw shellfish, ended up with dozens of brain parasites.

nasty, eh?
posted by maggots at 8:17 AM on April 10, 2001

I bet they used Microsurgeon, preferably on the TI99/4a platform.
posted by Avogadro at 8:19 AM on April 10, 2001

Their brains were merged? What would that have been like if they'd grown up conjoined? Like, dude, would they have had some kind of shared consciousness? Trippy.
On a more serious note...they're young. The brain is really plastic at that age and can reconfigure itself more easily to use different cells, so they might get through this without any cognitive function loss.
posted by lbergstr at 9:31 AM on April 10, 2001

Is it true the same surgeons are being consulted to join to President and Vice President? Sorry, could resist.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:33 AM on April 10, 2001

doctors used the synthetic material Gortex to replace parts of the girls' dura, a fibrous tissue layer covering the brain.
They have Gore-Tex in their *heads*? Those kids should move to Vancouver - they'll fit right in here :-)
posted by pascal at 10:04 AM on April 10, 2001

would they have had some kind of shared consciousness? Trippy.

that is trippy. if we can separate brains, I wonder if there will ever be a way to connect them so we can communicate with each other on a higher level.
posted by register at 10:43 AM on April 10, 2001

Though it's difficult to tell for sure with girls who are 9 months old, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the brains were sharing signals in any signficant way. They were "connected" in the sense that they shared a blood supply and a combined skull and some of the connective tissue, which is why the surgery was such a bitch. They couldn't just cut-and-seal vessels and veins because that would have cut off the blood supply for some part of one of the brains, and there wasn't really enough bone to construct two full skulls (and I don't know what they did about that). Most of the time was spent plumbing the blood supply to make sure that both brains were adequately supported.

From what I'm reading, in these kinds of operations when they carefully analyze MRI's they can eventually locate the dividing line between the two brains and that is where they divide them.

As to personalities, the girls have different tastes in foods; one is more aggressive than the other, and they slept at different times. Sorry, no sign of shared thoughts.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:02 PM on April 10, 2001

I found a photo of the doctors in training for this procedure.
posted by dhartung at 8:11 PM on April 10, 2001

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