Doctors at the Vatican’s children’s hospital in Rome said on Tuesday they successfully separated a pair of twins conjoined at the back of their heads.
The so-called craniopagus twins – two baby girls – had in common part of their skull bones and cerebral venous system, which allows blood to flow between the brain to the heart.
“It is the first case in Italy – and probably in the world (there are no descriptions of similar operations in the literature),” the Bambino Gesu hospital said in a statement.
The twins, called Ervina and Prefina, were born in the Central African Republic in 2018. The Bambino Gesu flew them to Rome as part of its charity programmes.
They were operated on three times, in May and June 2019 and on June 5 this year, when they were separated. The last surgery lasted 18 hours and required more than 30 medical staff.
One month on, “the little twins are doing fine,” are still hospitalized, but can expect to eventually “lead a normal life,” the Bambino Gesu said.
Separating their cerebral venous systems was the biggest challenge, the hospital said. Also, mirrors were used to let the twins see and recognize each other’s faces before their final operation.
In a video, the twins can be seen wearing head bandages, sitting on their mother’s knees, while being sung to and presented with cakes on June 29, the day they turned 2.
Craniopagus twins are extremely rare.
The Bambino Gesu said it knew of only two other craniopagus cases who were successfully operated on, in London, but they were joined at the top and not the back of their heads.