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Conjoined Twins Separation Surgery Made Possible with 3D Modeling


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For the first time ever, 3D modeling has aided doctors in the successful separation of conjoined twins. Sisters Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith were born last April to John and Elysse Mata. The girls, now ten months old, shared a chest wall, lungs, heart linings, diaphragm, liver, intestines, colon, and pelvis, all of which needed to be carefully separated by doctors.

Even before the surgery the babies were already a miracle—of the roughly 200,000 conjoined twins born every year, between 40 and 60 percent of them die before birth or shortly thereafter. The more organs they share, the more complicated and risky a separation operation becomes, but luckily, the girls were born with separate functioning hearts.

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Since Knatalye and Adeline were healthy and stable at birth, it gave doctors the opportunity to model and study their anatomy in preparation for the risky operation. It took a team of 26 pediatric, urological, orthopedic, cardiac, gynecological and plastic surgery specialists nearly 30 hours to complete the surgery, performed at the Texas Children’s Hospital on February 17th and 18th.

3D Models and Simulations

By 3D modeling their organs and running simulations of the marathon surgery, doctors were given the extra experience they needed to plan and practice the separation using metrics of the girls’ unique anatomy. This is not the first complicated surgery that was made possible with 3D modeling, doctors at the Boston Children’s Hospital were recently able to make reconstructions to the face of a 2-year-old born with a Tessier facial cleft with the help of 3D modeling.

Doctors spent months using small, saline-filled balloons to stretch the girls’ skin in preparation for the surgery. Meanwhile, visualization expert Nicholas Dodd and MedCAD specialist Dr. Jayanthi Parthasarathy were tasked with creating a detailed model of the girls’ anatomy, using the Mimics Innovation Suite from Materialise. The technology allowed them to create a high contrast, color-coded model of the complexities of their conjoined anatomy. It also allowed Dr. Krishnamurthy, a radiology and cardiac imaging specialists at the hospital, to make the most informed assessment possible when deciding which twin should receive which organs. Surgeons were also able to practice the surgery on anatomically accurate mannequins. Surgeries such as these are incredibly risky, and often one twin does not survive the procedure, especially when they share so many organs. Almost 2 weeks on, both Knatalye and Adeline are strong and doing well.

twins separated

They Still Need Help

Despite the feeling incredibly grateful for the success of the surgery, the Mata family has faced considerable hardship as they were forced to uproot their lives and live in an RV near the Huston hospital for the better part of a year. The bill for the girls’ lifesaving surgery and post-operation therapy may cost them millions of dollars to come. Those interested in donating to their cause can visit Knatalye and Adeline’s online fundraising page here.

Photo Credits: New York Daily News

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