WASHINGTON DC - Doctors at a Chicago-area hospital have successfully operated on a baby from Africa born with a parasitic twin and having four legs and two spines.The girl, known only as "Dominique" from Ivory Coast, is recovering well from the delicate and groundbreaking March 8 surgery and is expected to live a normal, fully-functional life.
Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, Tuesday announced that the 10-month-old, being cared for by a local foster family, underwent six hours of surgery involving dozens of healthcare providers and five surgeons, including pediatric specialist Dr. John Ruge.
"This is a situation where identical twins failed to separate. And, they can be connected in a variety of different manners," said Dr. Ruge.
Baby Dominique was born with her parasitic twin’s waist, legs and feet growing out of her back. She was also born with two spines. Without surgery her life would likely not be a long one with deformity and pain. Her heart and lungs were working to support the equivalent of two bodies.
"It’s as if the twin, from the waist down, had been attached to the back of Dominique’s neck. And, there was a pelvis and bladder, and functional legs that moved, and feet coming out of the back of Dominique’s neck. Now, this made it extremely dangerous for Dominique."
Doctors used scans and imaging to create a three-dimensional model of her two spines. A second bladder behind the extra limbs had to be removed.
The team of surgeons performed a mock operation to prepare for the surgery performed March 8 and lasting six hours, which involved disconnecting nerves and blood vessels to prevent numbness or paralysis.
"So, we took her to the operating room," said Dr. Frank Vicari, who was also part of the team. "We approached the problem, the critical part being at the base of the junction of two spines and the abnormal pelvis. And, once we had control of that, I think it was pretty clear to most people in the operating room that we were going to be able to accomplish this surgery."
All that remains is part of an abnormal bone that stabilizes her spinal column. Dominique was able to sit up the next day and was discharged five days later, although she still has two intertwined spines. But, doctors do not believe that will hinder her from having a long and productive life. It is hoped she will be reunited with her family in Ivory Coast next month.