Medical Definition of Two-faced twins

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

Two-faced twins: Known medically as diprosopus, two-faced twins are 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