Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Treatment of conjoined twins depends on their unique circumstances — their health, where they're joined, and whether they share organs or other vital structures.

If you're carrying conjoined twins, you will be very closely monitored throughout your pregnancy. You will be best served by a team of doctors who work to learn as much as possible about your twins' anatomy, functional capabilities and prognosis after birth. Having this information can help your doctors form a treatment plan for your twins.

A surgical delivery (C-section) is planned ahead of time, often two to four weeks before the due date.

After your conjoined twins are born, you and your doctors must decide whether separation surgery should be attempted. An emergency separation may be needed if one of the twins dies, develops a life-threatening condition or threatens the survival of the other twin. More often, however, separation surgery is an elective procedure done two to four months after birth. Recent advances in prenatal imaging, critical care and anesthetic care have improved outcomes in separation surgery.

Many factors weigh heavily in the decision to pursue separation surgery, such as:

  • Do the twins share vital organs?
  • Are the twins healthy enough to withstand separation surgery?
  • What are the odds of successful separation?
  • What type of reconstructive surgery might be needed for each twin after successful separation?
  • What issues would the twins face if left conjoined?

If the circumstances are grave and separation surgery isn't possible or you decide not to pursue the surgery, comfort care — such as nutrition, fluids, human touch and pain relief — is provided as needed.

April 10, 2013