After more than ten hours of surgery, two conjoined twins were separate for the first time in their lives.
Early Tuesday morning more than 20 doctors and nurses at Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto began separating Angelica and Angelina Sabuco. The two were born attached at the abdomen.
By Tuesday night, the girls were recovering in the pediatric care unit. That's where they are expected to stay for about a week.
For the two little girls from the Philippines, the doctors at Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto are a godsend.
"I thank God for everything," the girls' mother Ginady Sabuco said following the surgery. "Words cannot express how the family feels for the successful separation of our twins, Angelica and Angelina."
Doctors said the riskiest portion of the surgery, which was dividing the girls' liver, "went slowly but smoothly."
"It could not have gone better. We were able to close the abdominal muscles without a graft, and the chest closure also went better than expected," surgeon Dr. Gary Hartman said.
The surgery came after months of preparation and planning and it involved several risks. The two girls were attached at the chest and abdomen.
"This is a major operation, but we really expect both twins to survive and to do well," said pediatric surgeon Gary Hartman, MD, before starting the operation.
Hartman has performed more of these types of surgeries than any other surgeon.
The girls and their family now live in San Jose and their mother. Ginady Sabuco, says she has been praying to God since she first found out her children were conjoined when she was seven months pregnant.
Beyond the psychological adjustment to living separate lives, the girls livers that are tightly fused, intestines that touch and joint sternums.
The doctors also had to start using tissue expanders on the girls back in the Spring to help cover the hole that is left where the doctors separate the two.
Quick facts about separating conjoined twins:
- Most conjoined twins do not survive pregnancy. The occurrence of conjoined twins is estimated to range from 1 in 50,000 births to 1 in 100,000 births worldwide, and the overall survival rate is approximately 25 percent.
- Angelina and Angelina are classified as Thoraco-omphalopagus; they are joined at the chest and abdomen. Their livers, diaphragms, sterni (breast bones), chest and abdominal wall muscles are fused. They have separate hearts, brains, kidneys, stomachs and intestines.
- Separation surgery is performed in the United States about six times per year.
- This will be the sixth separation of conjoined twins for lead surgeon Gary Hartman, MD.
- This is the second set of conjoined twins separated at Packard Children’s. Yurelia and Fiorella Rocha-Arias were separated at the hospital in November 2007.
- Below is video of the two in action: