Conjoined Twin Sisters Undergo Successful Surgery to Separate at 4 Months Old

16-week-old twins JamieLynn and AmieLynn were successfully separated at a Fort Worth hospital on Monday

JamieLynn and AmieLynn, Conjoined Twin Girls Separated at Cook Children’s Medical Center Make History
Photo: Courtesy of Cook Children’s Medical Center

One became two in Fort Worth, Texas on Monday, as 4-month-old conjoined twins successfully underwent a separation surgery.

JamieLynn and AmieLynn, daughters to Amanda Arciniega and James Finley, made history at Cook Children's Medical Center as the first conjoined twins to be separated at the hospital. The operation took 11 hours and involved more than a dozen medical professionals, including four pediatric surgeons, three anesthesiologists and two plastic surgeons — one for each girl, a release from the hospital said.

"By separating early, they're not going to be as used to the loss of having essentially part of you that is different, so hopefully, that transition will be better," Jose Iglesias, medical director of pediatric surgery at Cook Children's said. "There are not very many more benefits to waiting longer versus doing it now."

The situation was rare to begin with.

Arciniega and Finley learned that they were expecting twins at their 10-week scan. "She said that's the baby's head," Finley recalled. "I was like, 'What is that?' and she said, 'That's the other baby's head.' And I was like, 'What?' "

Shortly after that appointment, doctors confirmed that the two girls were conjoined.

"As far as conjoined twins that reach and stay viable after birth, at least for the first few days, there's really only about five to eight of those per year on the entire planet, so it is very rare," Dr. Iglesias said.

On October 3, JamieLynn and AmieLynn joined their parents Earth-side, and spent the first month in the NICU at the hospital where they were delivered. A month later, the girls were transferred to the NICU at Cook Children's, where they would later undergo the separation operation.

JamieLynn and AmieLynn, Conjoined Twin Girls Separated at Cook Children’s Medical Center Make History
Courtesy of Cook Children’s Medical Center

Monday's surgery was a tedious process. "It took us five hours from rolling into the room until the time we actually cut skin, and the reason is safety," Valerie Gibbs, director of perioperative services, said in a video shared on the hospital's Facebook page.

Once both babies were safely under anesthesia, the team began the separation. The liver was divided first, and the team slowly made their way to the back of the girls' abdominal wall to complete the dissection.

At 3 p.m. local time, the family got the news they'd been waiting for.

"You have two babies on two separate beds," Dr. Gibbs told the waiting room where Arciniega and Finley and their loved ones sat. Applause erupted, and Arciniega and Finley shared a tearful embrace.

It was another three hours, though, before the operation was fully complete.

JamieLynn and AmieLynn, Conjoined Twin Girls Separated at Cook Children’s Medical Center Make History
Courtesy of Cook Children’s Medical Center

However, the twins still have a long road ahead of them.

"The challenges the girls may face after surgery are very difficult to fully prepare for," neonatologist Mary Frances Lynch said. "We do still have some unknowns as far as how their shared vasculature and their shared anatomy and positioning over these last three months will affect them."

The main concerns in the days following the operation are "breathing support and pain control," she said.

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It's also a "possibility" that future operations will be needed to ensure everything is properly healed and growing, Dr. Iglesias said.

"I'm sure mom and dad are going to think we're moving in slow motion. The first steps are going to be healing of the very large incision that is required to separate them. We have to wait for their gut to start to work before we start allowing nutrition to move through their intestines."

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