Surgeons plan to separate twins joined at the head

Operation at Hopkins set to begin Saturday

September 08, 2004|By David Kohn | David Kohn,SUN STAFF

A pair of year-old twin girls joined at the head will undergo a surgical separation procedure beginning Saturday, the Johns Hopkins Children's Center announced yesterday. A team of 50, including surgeons and other medical personnel, will begin the operation at 7 a.m. and continue working for 24 to 48 hours.

The patients, Lea and Tabea Block, are from Lemgo, Germany, a city of about 40,000 in the western half of the country. Born Aug. 9 last year, they have conjoined heads, a condition known as craniopagus that occurs in about one of every 2 million births. The twins are connected at the top of their heads and share blood vessels between their brains.

The Block family, which has signed an agreement giving the German newsmagazine Stern exclusive rights to their story, declined to be interviewed, said Staci Vernick Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the Children's Center.

In June. the twins underwent a preliminary procedure in which devices were inserted under their scalps to stretch the skin, giving doctors enough to cover the girls' heads after the separation.

The medical team will be led by Dr. Benjamin Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Children's Center. Carson has performed the operation four times, twice successfully.

Carson and his team have been involved in preparation, including several dry runs.

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