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UCLA surgeons complete skin expansion procedure on conjoined twins

d performing the incision. "Overall, everything went exactly as it should have," said Dr. Barbara Van De Wiele, chief anesthesiologist on the case. "We're very pleased."

UCLA plastic surgeons made a tiny incision on one side of the babies' heads, between their ears. In the small groove separating the twins' heads, Kawamoto threaded two eight-inch long silicone balloons around each girl's head, creating a bulging halo effect under their scalps. The end of the balloon runs into a slender hose with a self-sealing valve. Twice a day, doctors will inject saline solution into the valve.

Tissue expansion enables the body to "grow" extra skin for use in reconstructing almost any part of the body. Surgeons prefer to use tissue expansion to reconstruct parts of the scalp, where hair growth makes it difficult to replace lost tissue with skin from elsewhere on the body. Even after stretching, skin from the scalp retains its ability to generate natural hair growth. In addition, the skin is less likely to die because it remains connected to the scalp's own blood and nerve supply.

The Quiej-Alvarez twins were born in a small hospital in Guatemala on July 25, 2001. The hospital called the Guatemalan Pediatric Foundation, which contacted Healing the Children, a nonprofit group that finds medical care for children in underdeveloped countries. The organization approached UCLA pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Jorge Lazareff, one of their volunteer physicians, for aid in accepting the twins' cases. Lazareff and Kawamoto are leading the team of UCLA physicians, nurses and medical staff who will treat the twins. The twins arrived in Los Angeles with their mother, Leticia Alba Alvarez, on June 7.

Craniopagus twins those who are fused at the tops of their heads are one of the rarest types of conjoined twins. An estimated two percent of conjoined twins are craniopagus.


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Contact: Roxanne Moster
roxannem@support.ucla.edu
310-794-0777
University of California - Los Angeles
24-Jun-2002


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