Medical Miracle

A medical team from the Texas Children’s Hospital successfully separated conjoined twin girls after a 26-hour surgery, with the help of CT imaging and 3D printing.

The two girls were born conjoined, which only happens about once in every 200,000 live births. And unfortunately, the two were very conjoined.

"This case was unique in the extent of fusion," Rajesh Krishnamurthy,  chief of radiology research and cardiac imaging at Texas Children's Hospital, said in a statement. "It was one of the most complex separations ever for conjoined twins." Krishnamurthy and his colleagues presented a study on the case this month at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting.

Doctors completed a volumetric CT imaging scan to enhance the views of each child’s essential structures, which lent itself to making sure that both girls survived the operation. Using target mode prospective ECG gating, doctors froze the motion of the girl’s hearts on the image and an intravenous contrast dye to get a full and detailed view, while keeping radiation exposure low.

From there, the CT images were converted into color-coded 3D models with physical and skeletal structures made of a rubber-like materials and hard plastic resin. Major blood vessels were printed and represented in white for a better visual. The doctors then used the 3D model to begin preparations and planning for the complicated surgical process.

At the time, the 10-month-old girls named Faith and Hope, were diagnosed with thoraco-omphalo-pyopagus — a condition that means the girls were conjoined from their chest to their pelvis.

Practice Makes Perfect

The surgical team, who successfully managed to separate Faith and Hope last January, managed to allow the twins to return to their homes by the middle of the year, and the team just reported that they are doing well.

The medical team in charge of the surgery was composed of several anesthesiologists, nurses, and surgeons. And despite the complexity of the procedure, the operation went smoothly and seamlessly thanks to the clinicians having access to the twins’ 3D printed internal models.

Despite being one of the most complex separations ever done for conjoined twins, the planning process for their surgery proved to lower the risk of the operation, showing 3D printing's potential to become an invaluable addition to the surgical process in the future.

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