The History of Craniopagus Separation

Craniopagus twinning is one of the rarest forms of conjoined twins. It is a congenital abnormality, occurring on a frequency of 4-6 per 10 million births and accounting for just a mere 2-6 percent of reported cases of conjoined twins. Craniopagis twins have fused skulls and are conjoined at either the front or back portion of the head, which makes it more difficult for surgeons to deal with.

Medical statistics reveal that approximately 40 percent of Craniopagus twins are stillbirths or die inside the woman’s uterus during labor, one third die within a 24-hour time frame due to severe birth abnormalities. Hence, just around 25 percent of Craniopagus twins survive and are considered for a medical operation.

Moreover, about a handful of Craniopagus medical operation/separation occur each year, since the inception of modern medical technologies.

However, there are limited documentation of the anaesthetic and medical procedures involved in such Craniopagus separation. Likewise, there are several problems occurring in such a delicate medical procedure. It should be noted that in the separation process, both infants must have perfect airways and medical machines should support each patient’s circulation in such a long and straining operation and in spite of possible disturbance in their vital functions.

More so, from the year 1920s until 1950 about a handful of Craniopagus operations were done all of which resulted into a dismal failure, resulting in the death of both children. Needless to say, the parents of infants who suffer from Craniopagus complications choose not to put their children under medical operations, fearing that it may result into the death of their newborns.

However, with the advent of modern medical procedures and techniques at the onset of the early 1950s, glimmers of hope have started to shed light in Craniopagus separations.

Thus, in 1952-1953, Oscar Sugar and his staff worked on the first successful Craniopagus separation, resulting into the survival of one of the twins – a pretty decent success considering that all previous attempts of Craniopagus separation resulted into the death of both children.

Of the two Brodie twins, only Rodney survived while Roger lost consciousness during the 10-hour long operation and died 34 days later. Rodney, however, had critical medical conditions for the first five years of his life. After he was cleared to leave the hospital, Rodney lived until his 11th year.

Hence, the success of the Brodie twins’ operation opened possibilities and resulted to several other successful Craniopagus separation including the first case in 1987 in which both children survived; Vilija and Vatalija Tamulevicius, the 2002 operation of Maria Teresa and Maria de Jesus of Guatemala and the recent 2004 Craniopagus separation done on Carl and Clarence Aguirre of the Philippines.