'Youngest ever' conjoined twins successfully separated in miracle surgery

By Samantha Luiz
01 February 2016

The odds were stacked against them. Born two months early and weighing only 1.1kg, the twin sisters were "extensively" fused at the chest and liver.

The odds were stacked against them. Born two months early and weighing only 1.1kg, the sisters were "extensively" fused at the chest and liver.

Born just last month at the Inselspital Hospital in Bern, Switzerland, Lydia and Maya and their sister Kamilla are triplets. Kamilla was separate and healthy. Despite being conjoined, Lydia and Maya's condition didn't pose any immediate risks. Their condition was stable and doctors initially planned to wait for a few months before separating them. But a week later, their condition took a dramatic turn for the worse. One twin started suffering from hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure) while the other developed the opposite condition, hypotension.

Concerned about the effect their conditions would have on their frail bodies, doctors decided to move the separation procedure forward. At just eight days old, the sisters underwent the complex five-hour procedure to separate them, possibly becoming the youngest babies to be separated. Separating the babies' liver was particularly challenging, says Barbara Wildhaber, head of the paediatric surgery unit at the Geneva University Hospital. Barbara, who headed the 13-strong medical team that carried out the surgery, adds that the procedure put the sisters under a lot of pressure.

"We were prepared for the death of both babies, it was so extreme," she told Swiss paper Le Matin Dimanche.

"It was magnificent. I will remember it my entire career."

Almost a month later, Lydia and Maya are said to be recovering well.

According to local media, they've even put on weight and started to breastfeeding. “We're delighted,” the babies' father told the newspaper SonntagsZeitung, adding that "it wasn't easy". "We discussed not continuing the pregnancy with the two conjoined girls and keeping only the third child.” Fortunately, doctors assured the parents that they would be able to separate the twins.

"The perfect teamwork of physicians and nursing personnel from various disciplines were the key to success here," says Steffen Berger, head of paediatric surgery at Bern Hospital.

"We are very happy that the children and parents are faring so well now."

The pair's remarkable story holds a special place in Swiss history. In the past 30 years, only two sets of conjoined twins have survived separation.

Worldwide, it is believed that there are only 200 conjoined twins currently living around the world.

The survival rate for conjoined twins, also known as Siamese twins, is between 5 and 25 percent.

Like healthy twins, they develop from a single egg - but it doesn't completely split.

Sources: bbc.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk, swissinfo.ch, dailymail.co.uk

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