Tue, 15 Jul 2003

Doctors mull surgery to separate conjoined twins

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

A team of medical experts in Bandung were exploring the possibility of separating conjoined twins born in the West Java capital on Saturday.

Hasan Sadikin Hospital care and services director Dr. Nanan Setiawan, speaking at a news conference, said they were examining the unnamed twins, born at Astanaanyar Hospital closely.

The omphalopagus twins were born on Saturday evening, with their stomachs, feet and groin joined.

The babies have no sex organs, but a scrotum was discovered. They have one navel, and each of them has a head, complete sense organs, two hands and two feet.

They were born to Rodiah, 35, and Asep, a 37-year old construction worker from Bandung. The poor couple already has seven children.

Nanan said preliminary examinations showed that the twins each had a heart, lung, liver and kidney, and confirmed that the babies had no sex organs, nor anus, and only one navel.

"We have stopped providing the babies with drinks because they have no anus."

The twins, in the neonatal intensive care unit, were given infusions to stabilize their liquid volumes.

Nanan said he would chair a meeting on Tuesday with other experts to decide on the best course of action.

Asep was waiting outside the room housing his children, accompanied by his brother-in-law, Dadang Hanafi, and Uya Mulyana, the head of Rahayu village in Margaasih subdistrict, where Asep's family lives.

Rodiah was still being treated at Astanaanyar Hospital. She was expected to be discharged on Wednesday.

Asep said he had no money to cover the medical costs of his twins, asking the hospital to give free treatment, including for any separation surgery.

Nanan assured Asep that he did not need to worry about the medical costs, saying the hospital would seek financial assistance from the West Java health office.

Hasan Sadikin Hospital has handled three sets of conjoined twins in the last five years.

In 1997, the hospital successfully operated on a baby with four feet. Last year, a pair of twins died at the hospital before they were operated on.

Last week, a pair of Iranian adult twins joined at the head died of blood loss after unsuccessful separation surgery in Singapore.

It was the first attempt to separate adult twins joined at the head, although the surgery has been performed successfully since 1952 on infants, whose brains can more easily recover.

Conjoined twins form when an embryo begins to split into identical twins but stops part way, leaving the partially separated egg to mature. They occur once in every 150,000 to 200,000 live births.