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Plastic Surgeons Transplant Tissue Between Identical Twins

At Jewish Hospital in Louisville, part of KentuckyOne Health, a team of surgeons recently used an advanced microsurgical technique to take abdominal tissue from one identical twin and use it in breast reconstruction for the other twin: something that has happened only five times in the world.

Deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap breast reconstruction, an advanced microsurgical technique used to rebuild breast tissue lost during a mastectomy, is an increasingly common way to reconstruct a breast from a patient’s own abdomen. However, in this case, Cherona Craig donated tissue to her identical twin sister, Cheryl Adair, for the reconstruction of Cheryl’s right breast.

Cheryl, 47, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. She had the lump surgically removed from her right breast, followed by six weeks of radiation. Three years later, she developed another tumor in her right breast and underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction, followed by more radiation. In 2016, yet another tumor appeared in the skin of her right chest. After more surgery and chemotherapy, followed by infections and wound problems, the right half of her chest became deformed from scars and radiation. Cherona wanted to help her sister by donating abdominal skin and fat for the reconstruction of the breast.

The sisters’ combined procedures took place on October 31 at Jewish Hospital, in a double operating room over a 14-hour timeframe. Because the twins are identical, there is no need for Cheryl to use immunosuppressive (rejection) medications, as is necessary with other transplants. The sisters recovered together in a double room at Jewish Hospital and were discharged within three days. They continue to do well.

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