Two is a Crowd: Two is a Crowd: On the Enigmatic Etiopathogenesis of Conjoined Twinning

Lucas L. Boer, Annelieke N. Schepens-Franke, Roelof Jan Oostra

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In this article, we provide a comprehensive overview of multiple facets in the puzzling genesis of symmetrical conjoined twins. The etiopathogenesis of conjoined twins remains matter for ongoing debate and is currently cited—in virtually every paper on conjoined twins—as partial fission or secondary fusion. Both theories could potentially be extrapolated from embryological adjustments exclusively seen in conjoined twins. Adoption of these, seemingly factual, theoretical proposals has (unconsciously) resulted in crystallized patterns of verbal and graphic representations concerning the enigmatic genesis of conjoined twins. Critical evaluation on their plausibility and solidity remains however largely absent. As it appears, both the fission and fusion theories cannot be applied to the full range of conjunction possibilities and thus remain matter for persistent inconclusiveness. We propose that initial duplication of axially located morphogenetic potent primordia could be the initiating factor in the genesis of ventrally, laterally, and caudally conjoined twins. The mutual position of two primordia results in neo-axial orientation and/or interaction aplasia. Both these embryological adjustments result in conjunction patterns that may seemingly appear as being caused by fission or fusion. However, as we will substantiate, neither fission nor fusion are the cause of most conjoined twinning types; rather what is interpreted as fission or fusion is actually the result of the twinning process itself. Furthermore, we will discuss the currently held views on the origin of conjoined twins and its commonly assumed etiological correlation with monozygotic twinning. Finally, considerations are presented which indicate that the dorsal conjunction group is etiologically and pathogenetically different from other symmetric conjoined twins. This leads us to propose that dorsally united twins could actually be caused by secondary fusion of two initially separate monozygotic twins. An additional reason for the ongoing etiopathogenetic debate on the genesis of conjoined twins is because different types of conjoined twins are classically placed in one overarching receptacle, which has hindered the quest for answers. Clin. Anat. 2019. © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)722-741
JournalClinical anatomy (New York, N.Y.)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

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