New surgery for formerly conjoined twins

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(File photo/2006) SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Formerly conjoined twins Kendra and Maliyah Herrin have had a new round of surgery to correct severe curves in their spines.

Orthopedic surgeon John Smith conducted the two hour procedure at Primary Children's Medical Center Thursday. He said the girls suffer from scoliosis, which rounds the girls' backs into a C-shape and kyphosis, hunching them forward.

Smith said the spine should have no lateral curve, but Maliyah's was bent 110 degrees and Kendra's 95 degrees.

In the Herrins, the deformities were caused from being born joined at the pelvis. The girls' spines grew in opposite directions and the curves grew worse after separation surgery because each had to sit with only half a pelvis, Smith said.

The problems caused "thoracic insufficiency syndrome," in which the part of their bodies that include the spine, ribs and sternum can't support normal breathing and lung growth, he said.

A pencil-thin device called the Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib was attached to the girls' ribs and pelvises during the surgery.

"The goal is to control the spinal deformity and allow them to grow," Smith said.

An additional goal is to straighten their backs, which could allow the girls to get prosthetic legs. Both Kendra and Maliyah have just one leg. They get around now either by crawling or using a walker.

After surgery, the twins' mother, Erin Herrin, said both girls looked "as tall as normal 6-year-olds."

Erin Herrin said she hopes the surgery will ease some of her daughters' struggles. Maliyah had difficulty breathing and tired easily during play because her diaphragm was compressed. And Kendra was often in pain because her ribs rubbed against her hip.

Now 6, the twins were born with a shared abdomen and some shared internal organs. Doctors separated the pair in a 26-hour surgery in August 2006.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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