SYDNEY (AP) — Surgeons in Australia begun separating conjoined twins from Bhutan in a delicate operation expected to last most of the day.
The 15-month-old girls, Nima and Dawa, are joined at the torso and share a liver and possibly a bowel. They arrived in Australia last month and their surgery started Friday morning after doctors deemed them ready.
The doctor leading the team of 18 surgeons, nurses and anesthetists said the operation possibly could go into the night.
"We keep making guesses as to how long this will take, but the reality is until the operation starts and ultimately we get to see what is connecting the girls, we won't really know how long," said Joe Crameri, Melbourne Royal Children's Hospital's head of pediatric surgery.
While optimistic, Crameri said he expected challenges, as it was not known exactly how many parts of the girls were connected internally.
"I feel quietly confident that we are going to find something we can deal with in a very straightforward manner, that's what I'm hoping," he said.
"But there are challenges with these types of operations and I think we've got the team around us to deal with those."
The bowel is known to be mixed, but Crameri said doctors don't yet know if the girls have separate bowels sitting next to one another or if the organ is shared between them.
"The one benefit we all have is we are all born with a lot of bowel and you can afford to decrease that," the doctor said.
The girls' mother, Bhumchu Zangmo, was both nervous and happy about the operation to separate the twins finally taking place, said Elizabeth Lodge, chief executive of the Children First Foundation that's assisting the family.
"This morning she used the word happy, yesterday she said she was a little bit scared and just pleased that today is finally here," Lodge told Melbourne radio station 3AW.