December 07, 2004
Surviving conjoined twin will be under the care of German medical team
Lea Block, who underwent surgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center on September 16 to separate her from her conjoined twin sister, Tabea, left Baltimore yesterday to return with her parents to their home in Lemgo, Germany. Her departure comes almost three months after the marathon operation which separated the twins; Tabea died of major complications associated with the separation surgery.
Lea, now 16 months old and in good health, was discharged from the Children’s Center on November 6 but remained with her family in Baltimore to receive follow up care, including physical and occupational therapy. The Hopkins medical team says Lea has made excellent progress and should continue to do well under the supervision of her physicians in Germany, where she will receive additional rehabilitation.
“We have been very pleased with Lea’s recovery. With continued care by her physicians in Germany, as well as with the support of her family, I believe Lea will grow into a strong, healthy young girl and will lead an independent life,” says lead pediatric neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson, M.D.
Carson says that Lea is very alert and interactive. She is feeding herself and like other children her age, she engages in baby babble and is currently teething. Further rehabilitative care will focus on improving the movement on Lea’s left side of her body, which has experienced some weakness since the surgery. In addition, there may be compromises in her visual function which will be carefully evaluated in the upcoming months.
On September 22, Lea underwent surgery to reconstruct tissue protecting her brain and to fully close her scalp. She will need further skull and scalp reconstruction surgery in the coming years, including the placement of metal or plastic plates over the areas where the girls' skulls had been fused, says pediatric plastic surgeon Rick Redett, M.D.
Lea and Tabea were born as craniopagus twins, joined at the top of the head. Although their brains were separate and distinct, the two organs shared numerous important blood vessels including the superior sagittal sinus, the major blood drainage system of the brain. Carson led a multi-disciplinary team in the separation surgery, which began on September 11 but was stopped almost twelve hours later when one of the twins became unstable. Surgery resumed on the morning of September 15, with the moment of separation occurring at approximately 12:15 a.m. on September 16. Sadly, Tabea succumbed shortly thereafter due to complications of the surgery.
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