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15th Jul 2019

Conjoined twins successfully separated following 50 hour surgery in London

Jade Hayden

conjoined twins

“We are extremely excited about the future.”

A pair of conjoined twins have been separated successfully following a 50 hour surgery in London.

Two-year-olds Safa and Marwa Ullah were born with their skulls fused together in January 2017. Their mother, Zainab Bibi, did not know she was expecting more than one baby.

The sisters, born in Pakistan, were consulted by doctors in the UK and eventually brought to Great Ormond Street where they began the four-month long process to separation.

They were discharged from the hospital earlier this month. Their mother said she couldn’t be happier.

“We are indebted to the hospital and to the staff and we would like to thank them for everything they have done,” she said. “We are extremely excited about the future.”

Doctors in Great Ormond Street used 3D printed models of the toddlers’ skulls so they could practice the surgery, with virtual reality (VR) allowing them to see exactly where the skulls would be separated.

Surgeons detached the twins’ blood vessels in their heads before inserting a piece of plastic into each of their skulls. The final operation involved moulding new skulls for their girls using their own bone.

‘Craniopagus’ twins, those who are joined are the head, are extremely rare, making up just five percent of all conjoined twins.

The overall survival rate of conjoined twins is between five and 25 percent, with three quarters of separations resulting in at least one twin surviving.

Out of the 200 pairs of conjoined twins that are born alive every year, almost half die before their first birthday.

Safa and Marwa received recuperation and intensive physiotherapy at Great Ormond Street and are now recovering at home with their family.

The team expects them to live long and healthy lives.

You can find out more about conjoined twins, and the procedure that separated Safa and Marwa, here.