Conjoined Twins

Manila Bulletin, August 18, 2004 | Go to article overview

Conjoined Twins


Last week, all our newspapers headlined the successful separation of Filipino conjoined twins Carl and Clarence Aguirre. I think it would make interesting reading if you write about conjoined twins. How do conjoined twins differ from Siamese twins? Mark R., Manila

Conjoined twins and Siamese twins are synonymous terms that refer to twins who are anatomically joined together. Conjoined twins is really the more appropriate term, but for a time, the more popular phrase used to refer to the condition is "Siamese twins," a term coined for the first pair of conjoined twins that has caught the publics fancy, Eng and Chang Bunker.

The Bunker twins were born joined together at the chest in Siam (Thailand) on May 10, 1811. They became a Barnum and Baily Circus attraction and earned a living by touring the U.S. with the circus. Eng and Chang married sisters Sallie and Adelaide Yates, respectively, fathered 22 children between them and became successful ranchers and businessmen in Wilkes County, North Carolina. They died, hours apart, at age 62, on January 17, 1847.

Conjoined twins are actually identical twins. Being identical twins, conjoined twins are same-sex twins. Three-fourths of conjoined twins are females.

Identical twins arise from a single fertilized egg that forms two separate embryos when it begins to divide. If the two developing embryos fail to separate completely, conjoined twins occur. The developmental failure that results in conjoined twins is probably caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Conjoined twin births occur in one out of every 50,000 to 100,000 deliveries or one in every 200 identical twin deliveries. Two-thirds of all conjoined twins are still born or die within 24 hours after birth. Very few survive to adulthood.

There are many types of conjoined twins that are classified by the point at which they are joined. If the twins are joined at the chest the most common type of conjoined twins the condition is called thoracopagus. If they are joined at the coccyx (lowest part of the backbone), the condition is called ischipagus. …

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