A 26-year-old woman gave birth to twin boys at Sion Hospital, Mumbai on Thursday morning at 9.25 AM. However, instead of celebrations, the parents were plunged into gloom as the twins were born conjoined with separate heads but sharing all other vital organs.
Even though conjoined babies are born one in every two lakh births, this is a rare case, say doctors. "Externally they have two separate heads and necks but a partially common thorax and are fused below the umbilicus level," says Dr Suleman Merchant, Dean of the hospital.
The babies, together weighing 4.6 kilograms, are undergoing various tests like CT scan, CT angiography and MRI to understand their unique internal anatomy. The two boys share a single heart, a pair of kidney, a liver, abdomen and pelvis; they have two legs and three hands. The twins would need to be separated by surgery, but the overall, the survival of these kinds of conjoined twins is just five to 25 per cent.
The babies are under the care of Dr Paras Kothari, HOD, Pediatric surgery, who has conducted surgeries of many such conjoined twins in the past. A team of neonatologists, neurologists and pediatric surgeons is monitoring the babies before deciding upon the surgery.
The parents of the babies migrated to Mumbai from Uttar Pradesh about ten years ago and live in a chawl in Sion. The husband works as a cobbler and the woman is a homemaker. The couple also have two daughters aged four and two. The woman was referred to Sion hospital when an ultrasound scan in the 32nd week showed the anomaly.
Dr Duru Shah, Member of the ethics committee of the International Federation of Gynecology & Obstetrics (FIGO) and a former president of Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Society of India (FOGSI), says an ultrasound scan easily pick such anomalies and the parents are counselled to make a decision. "In such cases where they share a heart, only one baby survives but the quality of life is affected," she says. If the parents had opted for an ultrasound scan upto 20 weeks, they could have terminated the pregnancy, she adds.
Doctors say the babies are stable as of now and further course of action will be determined after their investigations.