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Dayton doctors successfully separated conjoined twins. A local tissue bank played a key role

Augusto and Pedro are back in Guatemala recovering after being separated. They were joined at the head.
Dayton Children's Hospital
Augusto and Pedro are back in Guatemala recovering after being separated. They were joined at the head.

Warning: This article contains graphic imagery. Viewer discretion is advised.

Dayton Children's Hospital and Solvita, formerly Community Blood Center/Community Tissue Services, have given new life to twin Guatemalan preschoolers.

When Augusto and Pedro were three years old, Dayton Children's Plastic Surgeon Dr. Chris Gordon met the conjoined twins on a trip to Central America. Their mother asked for help and her sons were eventually flown to Dayton for separation surgery. Gordon turned the case over to Dr. Rob Lober.

Here is a video of their story:

connected : the story of the seemingly impossible separation of conjoined twins Pedro and Augusto

What the video doesn't show is the involvement of Solvita and skull tissue it harvested and worked with, enabling the boys' heads to be separated.

Solvita mainly deals with musculoskeletal tissue — things like bones, ligaments and tendons — as well as skin and birth tissues. Before Augusto and Pedro, it didn't have a lot of experience with the incredibly thick and dense skull bone.

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The tissue bank had two to three months after the initial introduction to come up with the material before Augusto and Pedro's first surgery.

"So at that time we started looking at what opportunities we had in relation to the types of tissues we had worked with in the past, but maybe exploring too, what we’re going to need to be able to address the anatomy," says Solvita's VP of Process Engineering and Development Pete Jenkins.

Solvita makes the skull covering out of donated skull bones and hip bones.
A technician applies a process developed by Solvita that increases the surface area of bone for each graft to make the graft more flexible.

Solvita not only had to cover the boys brains but also had to make the material somewhat flexible. To do this, Jenkins and his staff first had to find donors for the skull, get consent, and then modify the skull bone, which was incredibly thick and dense because it had to be expanded. In the meantime, Dayton Children's was stretching the boys' skin with a tissue expander and saline to better cover the brain. Jenkins put the final touches on the grafts.

"We had to kind of tweak it a little bit," he says. "So, through our project team, they were able to identify and address this particular type of tissue and put it through the process."

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After a successful series of operations, Augusto and Pedro are back in Guatemala recovering and laughing. The boys still have a long road ahead, but they've paved the way for future patients and surgeons, and for blood and tissue banks like Solvita.

It says this is the first time the top part of a skull has been recovered and used in large amounts, adding this experience will help others who need reconstruction of the head, jaw and face.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.