UF doctors separate twins conjoined at heart

Dr. Joette Giovinco reports

- The University of Florida Health Shands Children’s Hospital, announced the successful separation of conjoined twins.

The girls, Savannah Grace and Scarlet Angela, were born in April 2016. They were joined from their chest to their abdomen - including their sternum, or breast bone, diaphragm, liver and heart.

Their hearts were joined at the top chambers, or the atria, and Scarlett's blood vessels that carry the blood away from the heart, were transposed or reversed, and she also had a defect (VSD), or hole, in one of the chambers of her heart.

The twins also shared one, large liver, with blood flowing into the liver from one baby, and exiting out, in the other twin. Initially, they thought one twin was missing a vital blood vessel in the liver, the portal vein, which would have made separation impossible, but additional imaging revealed the vessel was intact.

According to a blog by the girls' mom, Jacquelyn Phillips - she and husband Mark discovered they had conjoined twins at a routine sex reveal ultrasound, on December 23, 2015.  After that discovery, due to the complexity of their attachment, it was thought the babies had no chance of survival.

After the termination was denied by their insurance company, due to the fact that the mother was not in danger, the pregnancy progressed. It was only after multiple consultations at the University of Florida that they began to have hope.

The babies, were born by cesarean section on April 12, 2016. Fetal cardiac specialist, Jennifer Co-Vu, M.D., says at the time of delivery, the twins were at 35 weeks, five days gestation. 

The separation surgery took place on June 20. They have undergone about a dozen surgeries according to pediatric cardiovascular surgeon, Mark Bleiweis, M.D.

Both babies were present at a press conference, in carriers, where the medical team designated the entire family, as new Florida Gators. 

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