Twins Born Conjoined at the Head Meet for First Time After Rare Surgery

Doctors in Israel have successfully separated two twin girls after they were born conjoined at the head.

Footage and photos shared to the media show the two one-year-old Israeli girls looking at one another after the operation to separate them was completed.

The procedure took doctors at the Soroka Medical Centre 12 hours to carry out, Reuters reports. It involved months of planning and input from dozens of experts internationally, the hospital said. The girls' names have not been provided to the media.

Mickey Gideon, chief pediatric neurosurgeon at Soroka, was cited by Reuters as saying that the "rare and complex surgery" has been conducted only 20 times in history. It was also the first time the operation had ever been conducted in Israel.

Another Soroka doctor, Eldad Silberstein, told Israeli news outlet Channel 12 that the twins were recovering well and were breathing and eating on their own.

Speaking of the moment the two babies were able to see each other for the first time after being unable to do so for a year, Dr. Isaac Lazar, director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Soroka, told The Times of Israel newspaper that "it was just so special."

The surgery to separate the two babies was delicate as doctors had to operate between major blood vessels in the head, Lazar added.

The doctor said that the procedure was "complicated beyond anything one could imagine," and told The Times of Israel how surgeons had to insert inflatable silicone bags into the two girls' heads in advance of the surgery, in order for them to grow more skin which could then be closed after the operation was complete.

He added: "One of the reasons for doing this now, as early as possible, is to allow normal development, and our hope is that this is now very likely."

The reported rarity of conjoined twins appears to differ between organizations. Conjoined twins occur just once in every 50,000 to 60,000 births, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. However, the U.K.'s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children states that conjoined twins occur once in every 2.5 million births.

It occurs more often in female babies than in males, and only two percent of conjoined twins are joined at the head, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia states.

Around 75 percent of conjoined twins are at least partially joined at the chest and share organs with one another. Chances for surgery and survival are greater if the twins have separate sets of organs, the hospital adds.

In 2020, the BBC reported on the case of two twins who were born conjoined at the spine in the U.K. A high-risk 16-hour surgery to separate them back in 2001 was successful.

As of 2020, the two 19-year-old girls were attending university and had both completed a work experience placement at Birmingham Children's Hospital, where they were separated.

Baby hands
A stock photo shows the hands of two babies. Doctors in Israel have completed a rare surgery to separate two twins born conjoined at the head. Mihail Dechev/Getty