Conjoined twins Scarlett and Ximena Hernandez-Torres were successfully separated April 12 at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi. The first-of-its-kind surgery for the hospital took 15 hours and involved a team of specialists who have been working for months to prepare the babies for the grueling operation.
Born by cesarean section as a part of a triplet set on May 16, 2015, Scarlett and Ximena were joined from the waist down, sharing a colon and bladder. Their sister, Catalina, was born without any serious health problems.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, conjoined twins occur once in every 200,000 births and 70 percent are female. The overall survival rate for conjoined twins is between 5 percent and 25 percent.
The odds of a triplet birth involving conjoined twins are especially rare – one in 50 million, according to Driscoll Hospital specialists. Even more uncommon is the way in which Scarlett and Ximena were connected, said pediatric surgeon Haroon Patel, MD, head of the surgical team.
“This arrangement is fairly rare, in only about 6 percent of conjoined twins,” Patel told CBS News. “The last time something was published like this was in 1966.”
Patel said that he and his team of nearly four dozen nurses, medical technicians and doctors, including specialists in urology, plastic surgery and orthopedics, drew on their experience with children who had congenital abnormalities. Three-dimensional CT scans helped the doctors create a 3-D model of the girl’s anatomy – a virtual representation of the twins on a computer screen that allowed the surgical team to simulate procedures before actually performing them.
“The goal here is essentially separation and closure. I think most of that should be accomplished this operation,” Patel said.
Once the babies were successfully separated they were taken to different operating rooms for reconstructive work on their lower bodies. It is anticipated that Scarlett and Ximena will remain in the pediatric intensive care unit at Driscoll Children’s for specialized care, and should be able to go home in three months. The doctors noted that the twins will need additional surgery as they grow and develop, but not on the scale of the separation surgery.
For the twins’ parents, the babies’ separation has been a long time coming. Calling Scarlett and Ximena her “tiny little fighters,” the girls’ mother, 23-year-old Silvia Hernandez-Torres, told CBS News that “since they were born, I have been waiting anxiously for them to be separated because I want to hold them separately in my arms and hold them close.”