Tijuana conjoined twins inseparable
Sisters born Friday share defective heart
By Sandra Dibble
TIJUANA — Conjoined twin girls born Friday at the city’s public hospital
have separate windpipes and sets of lungs but share a single heart and
thus cannot be separated, their doctors said yesterday.
The girls, Maria Guadalupe and Maria del Carmen, have been transferred
to a private facility, Tijuana’s Notre Dame Hospital, where they were listed
in very serious condition late yesterday.
They were under sedation, being fed intravenously and breathing with
the help of a respirator, said Dr. Fernando Ayala, a neonatologist in charge
of their care.
“They have a heart malformation that does not allow proper delivery
of oxygen to the body,” Ayala said. “At this point, we do not know to what
extent this is life-threatening.”
The twins share a rare condition known as dicephalus, meaning they
share a single trunk and limbs but have separate heads. Only 3 percent
to 5 percent of conjoined twins are joined in this manner, said Dr. Kurt
Benirschke, professor emeritus of pathology and reproductive medicine at
the University of California San Diego. Conjoined twins are estimated to
occur in one of every 40,000 to 50,000 births.
The girls were conceived in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Their parents
moved a month ago to San Quintin, Baja California. The mother came up to
Tijuana to deliver the girls after realizing that there would be complications,
Ayala said. She delivered the babies by Caesarean section at Tijuana’s
“The parents are frightened,” Ayala said.
They are in their mid-20s, have one other child and are poor. They
declined interviews yesterday and were not present at a news conference
discussing their daughters’ condition.
The girls’ birth marks the third known instance this year involving
conjoined twins and the city of Tijuana. But doctors say that there are
no environmental causes that would lead this to occur.
“It’s a random event, and random events can occur in clusters,” Benirschke
said. “The reason we hear about them is because they have lived. Most of
them die at the time of birth.”
The Tijuana doctors said that they have been consulting with their
colleagues across the border at Children’s Hospital and UCSD about the
babies’ care. Though the two other sets of conjoined twins were treated
in San Diego, that is not currently contemplated in this case.
“We have all the necessary facilities to care for them,” Ayala said.
At birth, the girls weighed under eight pounds. Each twin has her own
windpipe leading to her own set of lungs, but one in each pair is defective,
“There is nothing to be done, really,” Dr. Alejandro Lira said. “They
cannot be separated. If they survive, this is how they will survive.”