Erin and Abby Delaney did not just survive the 11-hour operation to be separated, but are now thriving 2-year-olds. The formerly conjoined twins' case was especially complex because they were once joined at the top of their heads.

Conjoined Twins

Erin and Abby Delaney are twin girls who were born with a rare congenital anomaly that joined them at the cranium. At just 10 months old, the girls received complex separation surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Erin was discharged after 435 days in the hospital, but she and her parents stayed at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House until Abby was also discharged just a month later. They were able to go home by Thanksgiving in 2017.

Now, the 2-year-old girls are thriving, and are being described by their mother as happy little girls. In fact, Dr. Jesse Taylor, one of the doctors who led the twins’ surgery says that they are exceeding their expectations.

They are now receiving various therapies such as speech, occupational, play, and physical therapy.

Complex Surgery

In a report, the surgical team leaders described the multidisciplinary efforts that led to the success of the surgery. In it, they note how teamwork, elaborate planning, and sophisticated surgical technologies helped them to successfully separate the twins, since their case was especially rare and complex.

Evidently, the girls’ case was particularly complicated because they were fused deep into the brain tissue, even sharing a superior sagittal sinus, a vessel that brings blood from the brain to the heart. To separate them, the team first cut through the bone where the girls’ skulls were joined, and then attached a device that pushed the girls’ heads apart by 1 or 2 millimeters per day before they conducted the full surgery months later.

According to Dr. Gregory Heuer, MD, PhD who co-led the 30-person surgery team, it is better to conduct the surgery on infants with the condition because of the plasticity and regenerative capabilities of the young brain, but it is still imperative to balance this advantage with the risks of such a complicated procedure.

“After this long and complicated surgery, these little girls are recovering, developing and growing. We are honored to have helped make this happen,” said Dr. Taylor.

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