If a baby needs surgery immediately after birth, doctors can plan for it by using MRIs to produce detailed 3-D images that let them look inside the womb, according to a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Doctors in Boston used MRIs to get images of twins joined from chest to belly and see details unavailable by ultrasound - details needed to separate them quickly and save the one who had a chance at life.
Doctors say the use of the MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, could prove effective not only in preparing for successful twin separations in the future, but for other operations immediately after birth.
Ultrasound had shown doctors that only one of the conjoined twins had a heart, and that their livers were fused together, Dr. Errol R. Norwitz of Brigham and Women's Hospital wrote in Thursday's issue of the journal.
The MRIs showed details needed to separate the pair quickly enough to save the twin with a heart, including precisely where the babies were joined and the exact placement of internal organs. Doctors successfully separated the twins' livers.
Conjoined twins occur anywhere from 1 in 30,000 to 1 in 100,000 births.