Twins conjoined at the heart are separated in miracle surgery: 'The outlook is extremely optimistic'
No one believed twins Savannah and Scarlett would survive, especially after doctors discovered they were joined at the heart, but thanks to the hard work of Florida doctors, their parents are bringing their two — and separated — daughters home.
Throughout first-time mom Jacquelyn's pregnancy, she thought she was only having one baby.
An ultrasound at 20 weeks instead showed two baby girls — conjoined at the heart, liver, sternum and diaphragm. Doctors said they had originally only heard one heartbeat because the two tiny hearts were beating in sync.
"Initially, they were counseled these babies might not make it," Dr. Jennifer Co-Vu, specialist in fetal cardiac care, said in a press conference Wednesday. "They might die after they are born."
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Doctors report between 40 and 60 percent of conjoined twins are stillborn, and 35 percent who survive being born are only alive for a day. Twins conjoined by the heart are considerably more rare.
But when the couple went to the UF Health Shands Hospital in Jacksonville for a second opinion, Co-Vu said her team felt the babies would not only survive, but there was a chance they could even separate them.
After Jacquelyn gave birth in April, doctors pooled their resources to research the best plan to separate the babies.
To practice, the team created what may have been the world's first 3D-printed conjoined twin heart, based on cardiac CT and MRI scans of before and after the twins were born.
Another complication was the babies' liver — while most of their organs were joined, baby Savannah and baby Scarlett shared one giant liver.
But after two months of meetings and research, doctors felt confident to embark on the six to eight-hour long surgery to separate the girls.
Despite once giving the twins a dim outlook, doctors are now calling the surgery a success.
"Mark and Jackie were told by many not to pursue this because it was daunting, and it could not and would not be successful," Chief of Pediatric Mark Bleiweis said in a press release.
But now, the two parents are carrying two separate babies in preparation to take them home.