What is conjoined twins?


Know the basics

What is conjoined twins?

Conjoined twin is a term to describe twins whose skin and internal organs are fused together. Approximately 40 to 60 percent of conjoined twins arrive stillborn and about 35 percent survive only one day. Only 5 to 25 percent of conjoined twins survive until they grow up.

There are variety types of conjoined twins. The most common type is thoracopagus twin, in which these twins are connected at the upper portion of the torso. Sometimes, they share a heart if they are connected very closely.

Another common type of conjoined twins is omphalopagus twin. These twins are connected from the breastbone to the waist. They may share a liver, gastrointestinal or genitourinary functions, but rarely share a heart.

A rare type of conjoined twins is craniophagus twin, in which twins are connected at the cranium or head.

How common is conjoined twins?

This health condition is extremely rare. Conjoined twins occur once every 200,000 live births. And, approximately 70 percent of all conjoined twin are girls.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of conjoined twins?

Conjoined twins are born with certain body’s parts connected. Depending on the types of conjoined twins, the connected parts are different:

  • Thoracopagus twins: the upper portion of the torso is connected.
  • Opmphalopagus twins: skin from the breastbone to the waist is connected.
  • Craniophagus twins: the cranium of head is connected.
  • Pygopagus twins: the lower back and buttock area is connected.

When should I see my doctor?

Most conjoined twins are very weak when they are born, which explains why the doctors have to observe their condition carefully and continuously.

Know the causes

What causes conjoined twins?

Conjoined twin is caused by genetics. This condition happens when a woman releases a unique egg, which does not fully separate after fertilization. The embryo starts to split into identical twins during the first two weeks after conception, but stops before this process is complete. The partially separated egg develops into a conjoined twin. There is another theory about conjoined twin: the egg divides completely but then joins back together, causing connection.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for conjoined twins?

Conjoined twin has genetic tendency. This means if you have a family history of conjoined twin (your relatives have conjoined twin), you may have it as well.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is conjoined twins diagnosed?

Woman can discover she is pregnant with conjoined twin with an imaging test. Common tests for conjoined twin are ultrasound and Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. The images taken by the tests show the connection of the twins.

If parents determine to continue their pregnancy, the babies will need a Caesarean section for delivery. After the delivery, many types of imaging tests will be performed to know how the babies are connected, which decide how to take care of conjoined twins.

How is conjoined twins treated?

How the twins are connected determines the treatment for them. If their internal organs are joined, it becomes very hard for doctors to separate them due to the high risks.

If the diagnosis show that conjoined twins can be separated, and their family agrees to separate them, doctors will perform a separation surgery. Separated babies can grow up normally as others.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage conjoined twins?

Not all cases of conjoined twins can be solved with separation surgery. These babies extremely need cares from their family and healthcare providers. If you or your relatives have conjoined twins, you need to be trained by nurses, dietitians, child life specialists, social workers and others. This helps you to find the best solution to take care of conjoined twins.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017