Conjoined twins: Bhutanese girls separated in six-hour surgery
Surgeons in Australia have successfully separated conjoined twins from Bhutan and say they stand a good chance of a full recovery.
The 15-month-old girls, Nima and Dawa Pelden, had been joined at the torso and shared a liver.
Lead surgeon Dr Joe Crameri told reporters the girls had coped "very well" with the six-hour operation.
Dr Crameri said it was a "joy" to inform their mother, Bhumchu Zangmo, that the surgery had been a success.
"There's nothing better in any operation to be able to go to the parents and say we have been able to take care of your child," he said.
Nima and Dawa had grown facing each other, and could not sit down together. They could stand but only at the same time.
The twins were brought to Melbourne with their mother last month, but doctors had delayed the surgery until Friday, to improve the girls' nutrition needs.
About 18 specialists in two teams, one for each girl, took part in the procedure at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital.
Doctors successfully divided the twins' liver. The girls were found not to share a bowel - something surgeons had said was an "unknown" before the operation.
"We always felt confident that we could achieve this," Dr Crameri said. "But we just did not know what we would find."
But he said there "weren't any things inside the girls' tummies that we weren't really prepared for".
"There will be challenges over the next 24 to 48 hours as with any surgery, and we feel quietly confident that we will have a good result," he said.
Conjoined twins are very rare - it is thought one in every 200,000 births - and around 40-60% of these births are delivered stillborn.
Only a few separations are carried out around the world each year.
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The Bhutanese family was brought to Australia by Children First Foundation, an Australian-based charity.
Elizabeth Lodge, from the charity, said Ms Zangmo had felt "a little bit scared", but had shown "extraordinary calmness" before the procedure.
The charity said the girls were breathing on their own.
"Bhumchu has seen her girls and given each a kiss… each sleeping apart for the first time," it said in a statement.
The state of Victoria has offered to cover the A$350,000 (£195,000; $255,000) cost of the operation.
The family is expected to return to the Himalayan kingdom, one of the world's poorest nations, after the twins have recovered.
In 2009, the same hospital performed a successful operation to separate Bangladeshi conjoined twins.
The girls, Trishna and Krishna, who were joined at the head, underwent a life-saving 32-hour operation.