Health & Science

Houston Surgeons Prepare For Complex Surgery To Separate Conjoined Twins

Knatalye and Adeline Mata will undergo separation surgery in February at Texas Children’s Hospital. Doctors say they’ve already begun stretching the skin on the girls’ chests, so there is extra skin to cover and repair their chests and stomachs after they’ve been separated.

Mata twins
Conjoined twins, Knatalye and Adeline Mata at 8 months of age. Photo by Allen Kramer for Texas Children’s Hospital


The twin girls, Knatalye and Adeline Mata, were born April 11, 2014 at Texas Children’s. They have been living at the hospital ever since.

Conjoined-twins_Mata-Twins_swing_-Photo-A-Kramer.jpgThe swing is one process that helps to alleviate pressure and aid the twins to heal from their previous surgery. Photo by Allen Kramer for Texas Children’s Hospital

“They are conjoined at their chest, abdomen and pelvis,” said Dr. Darrell Cass, co-director of the fetal center at Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Conjoining is incredibly rare, affecting only about 1 in 50,000 to 200,000 pregnancies,” Cass said. “Most and many are not survivable, or can’t be separated and therefore don’t survive.”

Cass is coordinating the upcoming separation surgery. It will involve at least 22 surgeons who will work in teams and rotate in and out, with each team assigned to a special task such as separating the liver, separating and repairing the intestines, and so forth.

In December, doctors inserted tissue expanders underneath the skin of the girls’ chests.

Elysse Mata with her girls. Photo by Allen Kramer for Texas Children’s Hospital

They’ve slowly added fluid to the expanders, filling them like balloons. 

“They just sit on the inside of the skin and stretch it outwards to allow enough skin for when they’re separated to close in front of them,” said the girls’ mother, Elysse Mata.  

When the tissue expansion is done, the girls will have a few weeks to continue healing, and then the surgery will take place, probably in February.

Mata says the girls get visits every day from physical therapists, music therapists or play therapists. She and her husband also play with the girls. The couple is from Lubbock and also have a five-year-old son.

“I’m very excited,” Mata said of the upcoming surgery. “I’m very nervous and anxious and ready to hold two babies, you know, separate.”




Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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