Medical Definition of Diprosopus

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

Diprosopus: Two-faced conjoined twins (incompletely separated identical twins). The twins have almost complete fusion of their bodies with one set of limbs. Part or all of the face is duplicated. The condition usually results in stillbirth.

The ancient two-faced Mexican figurines known as the "pretty ladies of Tlatilco" are now thought to represent diprosopus. It is believed these early Mesoamerican figurines may, in fact, be "the oldest scientifically medical images in world history." Sculpted over a period of 500 years beginning in 1200 BC, these little statues show diprosopus with two faces side by side. This degree of accuracy in documenting the anatomical and pathological features of a human head does not appear for another two millennia until the 16th-century studies of Hans Baldung Grien and Andreas Vesalius who did anatomical drawings based on dissected cadavers.

The term "diprosopus" comes from the Greek "di-," two + "prosopon," face = two-faced.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018