Formerly conjoined twins thriving after rare, complex surgery separated their brains

/ CBS News

Doctors separated twins conjoined at brain

Erin and Abby Delaney's parents are grateful their twin daughters are thriving. Born as conjoined twins, their condition was among the rarest of the rare. Now doctors are providing an update on the girls' extraordinary journey.

"They're just growing and changing and amazing little people and I can say they are really my heroes for what they have been through," Heather Delaney told CBS News.

The sisters were born joined at the head, and even rarer, totally fused with their connection deep into the brain tissue. In June 2017, the conjoined twins were fully separated at 10 months old at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"Around 3 months of age we separated the bone that was connecting the two twins and then we sort of slowly pushed them apart and changed the anatomy which, where the two were connected and then that allowed us to do the separation," explained Dr. Gregory Heuer of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Erin and Abby Delaney are now 2 years old. CBS News

A new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine details how doctors used innovative technology and teamwork to perform the complex separation surgery. A computer navigation system helped them map the connected blood vessels that needed to be divided between the twins.

"The most difficult part for these girls was that they shared some really important big blood vessels so having to be able to separate those and having the brain recover after we did the separation was really the hardest part," Heuer said.

The girls are among the youngest twins joined at the head to be successfully separated.

Now 2 years old, Erin and Abby are receiving physical, occupational, and speech therapy to aid their development. In the next few years, the sisters will need additional surgery to close the openings in their skulls.

"Some of the stuff they were doing had never been done before so we didn't know how it was going to work out," Heather Delaney said. "Luckily everything turned out incredible. We have miracle little girls to show for it."

Conjoined twins (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES)
Conjoined twins (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES) 57 photos

First published on January 23, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

twins.jpg Conjoined twins (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES)

More Americans now see Mueller probe as justified, CBS News poll finds

But they also say Democrats should be focusing on their own agenda — and not investigating Trump

updated 1M ago

Formerly conjoined twins thriving after rare, complex surgery

The girls are among the youngest twins joined at the head​ to be successfully separated

updated 6M ago

Hulu slashes prices on its most popular streaming plan

As Netflix lifts its pricing, rival streaming service makes play for budget-conscious viewers

updated 22M ago

PG&E bankruptcy shows we don't know how to pay for climate change

As weather gets more extreme, corporations, citizens and politicians fight over who should pay for the damages

updated 23M ago

Ken Griffin buys America's most expensive home

Billionaire hedge fund manager sets record with purchase of future penthouse atop 220 Central Park South in NYC

updated 32M ago

More Americans now see Mueller probe as justified, CBS News poll finds

But they also say Democrats should be focusing on their own agenda — and not investigating Trump

updated 1M ago

Pelosi tells Trump she won't let him deliver State of the Union

The shutdown showdown continues

updated 17M ago

Michael Cohen postpones House testimony

Cohen's lawyers said that he was postponing the appearance because of threats against his family by President Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani

1H ago

Trump pushes immigration proposal as shutdown fight intensifies

President Trump has proposed a temporary fix for Dreamers in exchange for border wall funding

2H ago

Migrant children in U.S. are being held in unlicensed shelters, lawyers say

A team of lawyers who inspect shelters say thousands of unaccompanied children are housed in unlicensed facilities

1H ago

Migrant children in U.S. are being held in unlicensed shelters, lawyers say

A team of lawyers who inspect shelters say thousands of unaccompanied children are housed in unlicensed facilities

1H ago

NYPD stresses work with overseas partners in terror fight

"We are seeing the emergence of the propaganda-inspired lone wolf, or small groups of people as the primary threat"

3H ago

Trump recognizes Venezuela's opposition leader as its legitimate president

Large anti-government protests erupted across the South American nation on Wednesday

updated 11M ago

Venezuela's U.S.-backed opposition movement takes to the streets

Mike Pence calls Maduro a "dictator with no legitimate claim to power," and says U.S. supports re-invigorated opposition movement

6H ago

Asked about border wall, pope says fear of migration is "making us crazy"

Pope Francis, long-critical of Trump's immigration policies, speaks out again during visit to Central America

8H ago

Carrie Underwood welcomes baby No. 2

The country singer and her former hockey player husband welcomed baby number two on Monday

2H ago

Connie Britton on the "ambitious storytelling in "SMILF"

The Showtime comedy series follows a single mom struggling to give her son a better life

4H ago

Alec Baldwin will take anger management class after guilty plea

He agreed to complete a one-day anger management class to resolve the criminal case

6H ago

James Gandolfini's son to play young Tony Soprano in upcoming movie

"It's a profound honor to continue my dad's legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano," 19-year-old Michael Gandolfini said

18H ago

Oscar snubs & surprises: Emily Blunt, Michael B. Jordan miss out on Academy Award nominations

Bradley Cooper is out of the running for Best Director, and other notable omissions from the list of contenders for this year's Oscars

19H ago

PG&E bankruptcy shows we don't know how to pay for climate change

As weather gets more extreme, corporations, citizens and politicians fight over who should pay for the damages

updated 23M ago

Amazon's delivery robot "Scout" resembles a water cooler on wheels

Half a dozen of the self-driving devices are making the rounds in a neighborhood in Snohomish County, Washington

1H ago

Northern lights to shine over parts of U.S., Canada tonight

Skygazers in some areas of the U.S. and Canada may get a rare glimpse of the aurora borealis

updated 37M ago

Fleet of campus robots deliver students' pizza and coffee

Because nothing is more important to college students than pizza

3H ago

Boeing's flying taxi lifts off, a victory for Uber Air

Electric-powered prototype vertically lifts off and lands in Virginia, with forward flight up next for the self-flying craft

5H ago

Formerly conjoined twins thriving after rare, complex surgery

The girls are among the youngest twins joined at the head​ to be successfully separated

updated 6M ago

Emergency declared over measles in anti-vax hotspot

23 cases of measles have been confirmed and health officials are investigating two more suspected cases in Clark County, Washington

1H ago

More blood pressure meds recalled over cancer-causing ingredient

Another pharmaceutical company is voluntarily recalling blood pressure medications due to trace amounts of a cancer-causing chemical

5H ago

New York passes abortion rights law

On the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, New York passed the Reproductive Health Act and Governor Cuomo celebrated by lighting landmarks in pink

5H ago

Nurse arrested in case of incapacitated woman who gave birth

Investigators arrested 36-year-old Nathan Sutherland on a charge of sexual assault

updated 51M ago

Hulu slashes prices on its most popular streaming plan

As Netflix lifts its pricing, rival streaming service makes play for budget-conscious viewers

updated 22M ago

PG&E bankruptcy shows we don't know how to pay for climate change

As weather gets more extreme, corporations, citizens and politicians fight over who should pay for the damages

updated 23M ago

Ken Griffin buys America's most expensive home

Billionaire hedge fund manager sets record with purchase of future penthouse atop 220 Central Park South in NYC

updated 32M ago

Amazon's delivery robot "Scout" resembles a water cooler on wheels

Half a dozen of the self-driving devices are making the rounds in a neighborhood in Snohomish County, Washington

1H ago

China set to eclipse U.S. as world's largest retail market

By the end of 2019, Chinese shoppers are expected to account for over half of all online sales around the world

2H ago

5 people killed in Florida bank shooting, police say

21-year-old suspect has been taken into custody Wednesday after police SWAT team entered SunTrust Bank branch in Sebring, Florida

updated 6M ago

Nurse arrested in case of incapacitated woman who gave birth

Investigators arrested 36-year-old Nathan Sutherland on a charge of sexual assault

updated 51M ago

Main doctor named of incapacitated woman who was raped, gave birth: Report

Doctor suspended; the woman had a baby after being sexually assaulted at Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix

updated 28M ago

4 arrested in plot to attack Muslim community in New York

Investigators said the suspects were targeting Islamberg, a community that's been targeted in the past

Jan 22

Chris Brown released after Paris rape complaint, denies allegation

The American star has a long history of violence, including a felony conviction for 2009 assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna

20H ago