Twin girls born together at the back of the head saw each other for the first time after a successful and rare operation to separate them in Israel.
The 12-month-old girls were separated on Thursday after a 12-hour operation at Soroka University Medical Center in Beer Sheva, the hospital said on Sunday. It was the first time Israel had an operation to separate Siamese twins.
“Whenever two babies with their brains and the vessels that supply the brain are attached to each other, it becomes even more complex and impossible for us neurosurgeons to deal with them and to know how to use them,” said Mickey Gideon, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Soroka Medical Center, which directed the operation, told NBC News.
He estimated that similar operations were performed only 20 times worldwide.
The girls, whose names are not yet known, were among the youngest twins to ever be separated. Gideon wanted to have the surgery before he was 1 year old, an important year of development, he said.
“You are recovering well and neurologically okay,” he said in a telephone interview. “We cannot yet estimate cognitively. We’ll have to wait and see and examine them and see what happens. “
The girls are now alert, conscious, and crying with their heads connected. In the days after the operation, they were separated for care and placed in the same crib for the first time on Sunday.
“The first two days after the operation we saw that they were a little excited and when we put them together it was a wonderful moment to see them go calm and quiet,” said Gideon. “For the first time they looked at each other after they were attached to the back of the head.”
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Gideon and his team began planning the separation surgery while the twins were still in the womb. Then, after she was born at 34 weeks of age last August, doctors tested and examined her repeatedly to get a more detailed and accurate understanding of her brain and body. They also worked closely with several high-tech companies, developing 3D models and using virtual reality simulations to prepare for the operation so that everyone involved knew exactly what to do in each part of the operation.
A few months ago, skin and tissue expanders were inserted into the babies ‘heads so that the two girls’ scalps can be closed after the separation.
During surgery, after doctors separated their blood vessels and bones, they split into two teams in two separate operating rooms to reconstruct each baby’s skull and scalp.
A team of 50 was involved in the planning and surgery, and the local medical team worked closely Twins unbundled, a charity that provides expertise in separating twins who are bonded at the top, and doctors Noor ul Owase Jeelani, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, and David Staffenberg, a plastic surgery specialist from the NYU Langone in the US who performed similar operations.
Specialists in anesthesia, pediatric intensive care and brain imaging, as well as nursing teams, pharmacists, laboratory staff and social workers also took part in the complex operation.