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Johns Hopkins Doctors Separate West German Siamese Twins

September 6, 1987 GMT

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A set of 7-month old Siamese twins from West Germany who had been joined at the head were in critical but stable condition Sunday after they were separated in a delicate 22-hour operation.

About 70 doctors, nurses and technicians started operating on the boys Saturday morning, said Lisa Hillman, a spokeswoman for the Johns Hopkins Hospital Children’s Center where the operation was performed.

The surgical team had practiced the separation procedure in dress rehearsals using the most lifelike dolls they could find, officials said.

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The Binder boys of Ulm, West Germany, were born connected at the back of the head and share a major vein, but their brains are separate. Doctors had said that the operation had a 50 percent chance of being successful.

The twins were admitted to Johns Hopkins Wednesday after arriving in the United States from West Germany a week before the operation. They underwent pre-operative tests during the week, the hospital said.

″At the end of the 22-hour operation, the twins - Patrick and Benjamin Binder - who are now two separate boys, were in critical but stable condition,″ Ms. Hillman said.

The hospital would not immediately release other details about the operation, Ms. Hillman said. The twins’ parents, Josef and Theresia Binder, will not attend an afternoon press conference or be available for interviews or photographs, she said.

Ms. Hillman said this was only the second attempted separation of Siamese twins in Hopkins’ 98-year history. Five years ago, doctors successfully separated twin girls born to a Delaware couple.

″This kind of operation is always touch and go, obviously because of the fact that the two twins share certain biosystems, which if damaged will result in both their deaths,″ Dr. Benjamin Carson told The Baltimore Sun last week. ″The danger of damage is great.″

Siamese twins occur in about 1 per 2 million to 2.5 million births and the survival rate of twins who have been separated are normally no greater than 50 percent, Carson said.

Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery, was among those leading 20 doctors who worked on the children. They included Dr. J. Alex Haller, director of pediatric surgery who successfully separated Siamese twins joined at the abdomen at Hopkins in 1982.

Information about the Binder twins and their family has been difficult to obtain because a West German magazine, Bunte, paid the parents of the twins an undisclosed amount of money for exclusive rights to their story.

The National Enquirer purchased North American rights to the twins’ story from Burda Publications, the company that owns Bunte.