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Formerly conjoined twins head home after risky procedure

Ella Grace and Eliza Faith Fuller came home for the first time nearly a month after a risky procedure to separate the twins conjoined at birth.
Doctors cart formerly conjoined twins Eliza and Ella after their surgery.
Posted at 12:17 PM, Jul 14, 2023

After four months of care, formerly conjoined twins Ella Grace and Eliza Faith Fuller headed home for the first time.

According to Texas Children's Hospital, the girls spent four months in intensive care after being born in March. After three months conjoined at the abdomen, the two were separated on June 14. 

Their surgery took over six hours and required 17 clinicians from multiple disciplines. In addition to being joined at the abdomen, they also shared liver tissue. 

The twins were born March 1 to parents Sandy and Jesse Fuller. About 1 in every 50,000 pregnancies involves conjoined twins, the Cleveland Clinic estimates. Of conjoined twin pregnancies, 60% of children are either stillborn or die shortly after birth. 

Data also suggests surgery can be risky. The Cleveland Clinic says about 60% of surgically separated conjoined twins survive. Those conjoined at the abdomen have the best chance of surviving.

A doctor places a stethoscope on a pregnant woman's belly.

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The care Sandy Fuller received in the months leading up to the birth was important, doctors said. 

“Conjoined twin pregnancies are incredibly rare and very high-risk, so it’s important that an expectant mother receive care from a highly skilled maternal-fetal medicine team,” said Dr. Roopali Donepudi, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. She continued: “The prenatal testing and imaging that Sandy underwent at Texas Children’s Fetal Center was incredibly thorough, and informed not only the labor and delivery team to ensure that mom and babies had the best birth outcome, but also allowed our neonatal and surgery colleagues to begin planning for the twins’ care while still in utero.”

Just an hour after their birth, Ella Grace and Eliza were transferred to the Texas Children’s Hospital level IV NICU. They spent over three months there preparing for their surgery. 

"Every set of conjoined twins poses unique challenges for our team, and Ella and Eliza were no exception," said Dr. Jonathan Davies, a neonatologist at Texas Children’s Hospital. "Through the coordination by our Conjoined Twin Clinical Program, we were able to personalize our treatments for Ella and Eliza. This allowed all of our teams to provide the specialized care that they needed from the delivery room, through preparing for their separation surgery and now to the very exciting milestone of getting to go home."

Texas Children's Hospital

The girls were extubated three days after their surgery. That was when their parents could hold them separately for the first time.