Baby undergoes risky surgery to remove her ‘parasitic twin’

A baby is recovering in Chicago after successfully undergoing surgery to remove a parasitic twin sibling from her back and shoulder, an extremely rare phenomenon that made it appear as though the girl was born with two extra legs and feet, various media outlets reported on Tuesday.

According to BBC News, the girl – identified only as Dominique due to privacy concerns – was supposed to have a twin, but the sibling never fully developed. Instead her twin fused to her own body, becoming parasitic and depending solely on the baby girl’s body in order to survive.

baby extra arms

Dr. John Ruge observes the child’s extra limbs

In addition to appearing as though she had an extra set of legs out of her back, Dominique had a second spine and was born with her twin’s waist growing out of her back, CNN noted. She came from the Ivory Coast and traveled to Chicago’s Advocate Children’s Hospital, where five doctors performed a surgery to carefully remove to parasitic twin without causing her any harm.

Dr. John Ruge, who led the surgery, told BBC News that the biggest challenge faced by his team was to make sure that Dominique was not paralyzed after the operation. His colleague, Dr. Frank Vicari, said that the surgery was essential due to the strain Dominique’s twin put on her heart and lungs, which were ill-equipped to “provide nourishment to another almost individual.”

Patient is doing well after the six-plus hour procedure

Dr. Vicari went on to explain that the surgeons used “an enormous amount” of special imaging technology that let them differentiate between Dominique’s own anatomy and that of her parasitic twin. This allowed them to “anticipate the problems we might see… so that we could pre-plan what we intended to do and minimize any opportunity for a surprise during surgery.”

Prior to her surgery on March 8, Dominique underwent an MRI, an MRA (magnetic resonance angiography), a CAT scan, a CT myelogram and several X-rays to identify her native anatomy and to find out exactly how her parasitic twin was connected to her, CNN explained. Next, the doctors created 3D models of her two spines and discovered a second bladder behind her extra limbs that also needed to be removed.

Along with the five surgeons involved in the operation, Dr. Ruge’s team included more than 50 different specialists who worked together to ensure that the procedure went smoothly. It took six hours, but the doctors were able to completely remove the parasitic twin, carefully disconnecting nerves and blood vessels to keep from harming or paralyzing Dominique.

Dominique was two pounds lighter after the surgery, CNN said, and while she experienced some swelling after the operation, she is expected to suffer no long-term ill effects. In fact, doctors said that she recovered faster than they had expected. She was sitting up the next day and was able to leave the hospital just five days after the surgery. She still has her second spine, and although Dr. Ruge’s team will continue to monitor Dominique’s condition, they do not anticipate the need for any additional operations.

“Like any child, she needs to be cared for and watched for developmental issues,” Dr. Ruge told CNN. “She has slightly more risk because she is built slightly more different than other children. But she looks great. We had 100 worries before surgery, and risks were high, so we’re pleased with how she’s doing.”


Image credit: Reuters

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