Doctors operate on two-headed baby

An international team of doctors has undertaken a delicate operation to remove an undeveloped second head from a baby girl born with one of the world's rarest birth defects.

    Twins conjoined at the head are extremely rare

    The operation in the CURE International Center for

    Orthopedic Specialties in the Dominican Republic began on Friday morning

    and was expected to last up to 15 hours

    .

    The baby, Rebeca Martinez, was born in mid-December at a

    hospital in Santo Domingo with the head of an

    undeveloped twin attached to the top of her skull, facing

    upwards.

    The infant is otherwise healthy but her brain cannot

    develop normally unless the undeveloped head is removed.

    The operation is being led by Dr Jorge Lazareff, director

    of pediatric neurosurgery at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital,

    and Dominican surgeons Dr Santiago Hazim and Dr Benjamin

    Rivera.

    Successful team

    Lazareff led the surgical team that successfully

    separated Guatemalan twin girls conjoined at the head last

    year.

    Iranian sisters Laleh (R) and
    Ladan Bijani died after surgery  

    Hospital director Ruth Taveras Brito said the $100,000

    operation was free for the parents, Maria Gisela Hiciano and

    Pablo Martinez.

    The baby girl's condition, cranio pagus parasiticus, is so

    rare there have been only eight documented cases in the

    world, and no known cases where surgery has been attempted to

    correct it.

    Conjoined twins form when an embryo begins to split into

    identical twins and then stops, leaving them fused.

    Twins

    conjoined at the head account for about one of every 2.5

    million births and about 2% of all conjoined births.

    Pressure on brain 

    Rarer "parasitic" twins occur when one conjoined twin stops

    developing in the womb, leaving a smaller, incomplete twin that

    is dependent on the other.

    They can form as an extra limb,

    torso or head, or as a complete second body, lacking vital

    organs.

    In Rebeca's case, there is a gap in her skull where the

    heads are joined, and the blood vessels are intertwined.

    The

    vestigial head is enlarged and fringed with dark hair like

    Rebeca's, but has a poorly developed brain and only rudimentary

    facial features.

    Rebeca was born weighing about 3.2kg and now

    weighs more than 4.5kg, but the undeveloped head

    is drawing away nutrients and exerting pressure on her

    brain.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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