In an eight-hour-long surgery, doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have successfully separated conjoined twin girls.
Now that they have been separated, their parents say it’s difficult for them to tell the identical twins apart. “Doctors are saying it will take us time to get used to it,” said Lal Bhai, their father, who is a daily-wage labourer from Satna district in Madhya Pradesh.
Born in November last year at village Aber in Satna, twins Shaily and Shilpa were fused at the lower chest and whole upper abdomen.
Fortunately for them, the girls shared no major organs except for the liver and a few chest bones and pericardium — the sac that holds the heart in place. This made the surgery safer and increased their chances of survival. Both had roughly 70% of the liver each which is enough to survive.
“This was comparatively a minimum risk surgery, as no major organ was shared between the two except for the liver. We have performed much complex surgeries at AIIMS wherein the two babies shared the heart,” said Dr M Bajpai, professor, department of pediatric surgery at AIIMS. Bajpai was part of the 30-member team that performed the surgery in May this year.
The parents of the twins said they were not even aware that they were going to have twins.
“Even though I got an ultrasound done, both at a private clinic and a government hospital, I did not know I had twins. I was shocked to see them joined in the middle. It was the first time that I saw such babies,” said Shashikala Devi, their mother.
“The doctors in the hospital where I delivered my babies told us that they can be separated and can lead a normal life, so we agreed to the surgery,” she added.
One in two to four lakh twins are born conjoined, of which barely 1% survive beyond a year.
Nearly 40% are joined at chest and share the heart and are the most difficult ones to separate. AIIMS has performed about 10 such surgeries; the first was done in 1969.
The two will come back for follow-up after three months, after which only two more visits to the hospital will be needed after an interval of six months.