Gauteng Hospital Commended For Successful Separation Of Conjoined Twins

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The Netcare Unitas Hospital in Centurion has been commended for the successful separation of conjoined twins girls.

The girls, Uwenzile and Uyihlelile Shilongonyane, from Swaziland, were born joined at the abdomen and weighed 4.21kg at birth. Their mother, 19-year-old Bongekile Simelane, gave birth to them on January 2 prematurely.

Apart from being joined at the lower abdomen, each of the twins had her own heart and other vital organs – which improved their chances of surviving the separation and will also contribute to them growing healthier afterwards.

Paediatric surgeons Dr. Mariza de Villiers and Dr. Paul Stevens said in a statement released before the operation that the girls had a good prognosis.

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Dr. Steven, however, hinted that the surgical team might face anaesthesia-related problems because the twins were conjoined in such a way that they are facing each other.

“..Intubation for such tiny babies is delicate enough, but as their faces are so close to one another and they are not able to be placed on their backs to be intubated for anaesthesia this was a great deal more complicated than usual,” he explained.

During the surgery, four anaesthetists were deployed to take care of the twins. The anaesthetists spent over three hours, almost half of the theatre time, to administer the anaesthetics correctly. And on January 21, the girls were successfully separated at noon while the rest of the operation was completed before 2pm.

The operation was carried out by a theatre team of 11 nursing professionals and eight doctors.



In a post-surgery statement released by paediatrician Dr Marleen Engelbrecht on January 30, the medical expert said the twins were fast recovering and have been in a stable condition.

“Uwenzile and Uyihlelile are no longer being fed intravenously and their bodily functions are all working healthily,” Engelbrecht said.

It is worthy to note that this is the first separation surgery at the Netcare Unitas Hospital. The separation also marked another successful operation by De Villiers and Stevens.

Meanwhile, the Swaziland government has been commended for funding the major operation.

The girls are expected to be discharged on Tuesday.

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It is pertinent to note that this type of conjoined twins is known as omphalopagus twins. Babies born in this way are joined at the lower abdomen and do not share a heart.

Facts About Conjoined Twins

  1. Conjoined twins are formed when the zygote is blocked by mitosis inhibitore after the embryo had split, causing the zygote to divide asexually and produce identical children.
  2. It is on record that omphalopagus twins are rarely delivered and the occurrence is estimated to range from 1 in 49,000 births to 1 in 189,000 births.
  3. Conjoined twins birth highly occur in Southeast Asia and Africa. Also, statistics show that approximately half of omphalopagus twins are usually stillborn (most stillborns are male) while an additional one-third die within 24 hours.
  4. Conjoined twins share a single common chorion, placenta, and amniotic sac. However, there are some monozygotic but non-conjoined twins who also share these structures in utero.
  5. Chang and Eng Bunker were the most famous pair of conjoined twins. The brothers were born in Thailand.
Chang and Eng Bunker

Some 21st Century Conjoined Twins

  1. Carl and Clarence Aguirre, born on April 21, 2002, successfully separated on August 4, 2004.
  2. Tabea and Lea Block, (Germany), joined on the tops of their heads. Born on August 9, 2003, separated on September 16, 2004.
  3. Kendra and Maliyah Herrin, separated in 2006 at age 4.
  4. Maria and Teresa Tapia, born on April 8, 2010. The girls were conjoined by the liver, pancreas, and a small portion of their small intestine, separated on November 7, 2011.
  5. Trishna and Krishna (Bangladesh), born in December 2006. They were joined on the tops of their skulls and sharing a small amount of brain tissue. In 2009, they were separated in Melbourne, Australia.

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