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British surgeons separate conjoined twins joined at twin girls' heads


Rital and Ritag Gaboura are conjoined twins born last year who are joined at the head; the twins have recently been separated by British surgeons.

On the verge of their first birthday, the twin girls are enjoying the first amount of time they have spent apart from each other. Surgeons said the girls were Total Type III Craniopagus twins, meaning they are joined at the head and one supplies much of the other’s blood flow.

Because the girls share a blood supply, the surgery to separate them was intensely difficult. The surgery was performed Aug. 15, and the doctors say the girls appear to be healing well and suffering no lasting damage.

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"The incidences of surviving twins with this condition are extremely rare," said David Dunaway, a surgeon who led the separation of the girls and practices in the plastic surgery and craniofacial unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital. "The task presented innumerable challenges."

The British Charity Facing the World funded the operation, which was costly and complicated. The girls’ parents are doctors, and they asked Facing the World to help get the girls the surgery they so desperately needed to live a normal life.

According to Facing the World, cases like the Gaboura twins’ are extremely rare. Experts say around 40 percent of those who make it full-term are stillborn or die during labor, and another third die within 24 hours. Only one in 10 million survive into infancy, so the girls’ survival in itself was beating the odds. When the twins arrived in the UK – They’re from Sudan – Ritag’s heart was failing. The need for the surgery was immediate, but it had to be done in four stages. In May, two operations were done to separate tissue. In July tissue expanders were inserted and the final operation was done in August.

"Within days the twins were back on the general ward interacting and playing as before. Their laughter and delight in the world has been an inspiration throughout the months of worry," the charity said in a statement. "Very soon, their parents will be able to fulfill their dream of taking home two healthy, separate daughters.

In a statement, the twins' parents, Abdelmajeed and Enas Gaboura said: "We are very thankful to be able to look forward to going home with two separate, healthy girls."