Doctors in Switzerland have successfully managed to separate conjoined twins who were joined at the chest and liver. The babies, which were just eight days old at the time of the operation, are believed to be the youngest conjoined twins to have ever been parted and to have survived. The sisters were born eight weeks' premature, and since the operation both are believed to be doing well, putting on weight and even breastfeeding.
Delivered on December 2 last year by caesarean section, the twins were born alongside a separate and healthy triplet. The surgeons originally wanted to wait a couple of months before putting them under the knife to make sure that they would be strong enough to survive the difficult and intensive surgery. But after it was found that one of the twins had too much of the shared blood and a worryingly high blood pressure, while the other was suffering from a lack of blood, the decision was taken to go ahead with the operation.
Half of the team that spent five hours separating the two girls. Department of Paediatric Surgery/Bern University Hospital.
After five hours of surgery involving 13 medical staff at Bern University Hospital, the twins were separated. As well as being joined at the chest, they also shared a large blood vessel passing through the liver, as well as the membrane that surrounds the heart, both of which had to be separated. They then underwent further surgery in order to close up their abdominal walls, before being placed in a paediatric intensive care ward.
When the sisters, named Lydia and Maya, were born they weighed just 1.1 kilograms (2 pounds 4 ounces) each, and doctors gave them just a one percent chance that they would survive the operation. In the last 30 years, only two other sets of conjoined twins have been successfully separated in Switzerland, and none of them were this small or premature. “The perfect teamwork of physicians and nursing personnel from various disciplines were the key to success here. We are very happy that the children and parents are faring so well now,” Steffen Berger, the head of the Department of Paediatric Surgery at the hospital, told the media.
The reports since then have indicated that the two girls are “still very small,” but recovering. “These are the smallest conjoined children which have been separated up to now,” said the hospital in a statement. They have already begun breastfeeding, and it is hoped that they will develop fully. Along with their sister, reports suggest that the triplets are all doing well.