Sanford neurosurgeon travels to Ghana for historic surgery

Dr. Alexander Drofa a key figure in attempt to separate conjoined twins

A Sanford Health surgeon in scrubs displays a dramatic photo on his phone: a pair of conjoined infant twins, attached at the tops of their heads, lying on a blanket.

Sanford World Clinic and Dr. Alexander Drofa, a Sanford neurosurgeon based in Fargo, North Dakota, are set to take part in a historic operation to try and separate two twin babies conjoined at the head.

Bound for Ghana

Dr. Drofa, and a team of 165 physicians from some of the most respected institutions around the world, are working together to save the Bansah twins, born in Ghana about nine months ago.

“It’s a very unique case. Only a few cases were done in the world. So it requires lots of planning. It requires a lot of teamwork, lots of collaboration between multiple specialties,” said Dr. Drofa. “I definitely feel privileged to be a part of this team.”

The surgery will take place in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and Dr. Drofa will be a key figure in the separation, which will be completed in about four or five proposed stages. He will be separating the vascular structure of the brains, while also assisting with neurosurgery. Recently he has been preparing for the surgery by looking at 3D scans of the twins’ brains and vascular systems, and working through a complex and unprecedented surgery plan.

Complex operations

“Those two babies are completely normal. They’re functional human beings. They just have several parts of their brains — and parts of the vascular system of the brains that are very crucial and important for the survival — basically merged together. So the challenge is, when you’re working on those critical structures, to separate them in a safe way so both kids will survive without suffering strokes,” said Dr. Drofa.

Dr. Drofa’s first trip is scheduled for late-December, with a goal of completing at least half of the vascular separation. If all goes well, Dr. Drofa would return to Ghana approximately three weeks later for the next stage. Ultimately, Dr. Drofa says a successful separation could take as long as five months, which includes plastic surgery once successfully separated.

“Our general philosophy would be to tackle this in stages to de-risk it as much as we can. So each stage will have a small percentage of risk that we’re going to absorb and hopefully will allow us to address anything that’s unseen right now,” said Dr. Drofa.

Among the world’s best

Dr. Drofa is also proud to be included in this historic surgery made possible by the work of Sanford World Clinic.

“It’s definitely an honor for us where we’re a new program. We have been around for a couple of decades versus those big established institutions from say, Europe, have been around for a hundred years plus, and we function at the same level that they do,” said Dr. Drofa.

From rural health to groundbreaking procedures around the globe, Sanford Health and Sanford World Clinic are committed to the highest care for patients and expertise from doctors like Dr. Drofa.

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Posted In Fargo, Neurology, World Clinic