Twins joined at the head, separated at Red Cross Children’s Hospital | Western Cape Government



Twins joined at the head, separated at Red Cross Children’s Hospital

11 May 2021

“I am overjoyed! I wasn’t expecting to leave here holding my children one in each arm,” says Ntombikayise Tyhalisi (31), the mother of a set of conjoined twins who successfully underwent separation surgery in February this year at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH) in Cape Town, South Africa.

Siphosethu and Amahle were born in the Eastern Cape and taken to the Western Cape’s Red Cross Children’s Hospital at only 4 days old.

A multi-disciplinary team involving a full set for each twin was put together for this unique surgery.  Each team comprised of an anaesthetist, neurosurgeon, plastic surgeon, and nurses.

Professor Tony Figaji, head of paediatric neurosurgery at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital explains that the twins were joined at the head in what is medically referred to as craniopagus twinning. “It’s the rarest form of conjoined twinning,” Prof Figaji explains. Craniopagus twins occur approximately once in every 2.5 million live births worldwide.

“We were fortunate in this case that the connection did not involve any shared brain tissue and didn’t involve major [blood] vessels going from one twin to the other,” says Prof Figaji.

Prof Saleigh Adams, head of plastic surgery at RCMWCH says the teams were prepared for a marathon surgery: “We were prepared for a six hour, at least, surgery. On this occasion the surgery lasted all of one and a half hours. This is a huge plus for the recovery of the twins.”

“We’re proud of the entire multidisciplinary team involved in helping these twin patients: from the birthing team in the Eastern Cape and the referring clinicians, to our staff in the wards and theatre and then to those involved with the post-surgery care. A huge thank you to everyone,” says Dr Anita Parbhoo, acting CEO for RCWMCH.

The focus now turns to ensuring the healthy healing of the surgical areas. Both patients and mom are doing well following the surgery and continue to receive follow up care.

Additional images and videos, including interviews with Prof Figaji, Prof Adams, Dr Lelala and Ntombikayise Tyhalisi (mother) available at

Please credit: Western Cape Government Health.

Media Enquiries: 

Dwayne Evans
Principal Communications Officer
Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
Mobile: 072 236 8658