Two-year-old conjoined twin sisters -who shared much of their lower body – were successfully separated in a 17-hour surgery in the US. Erika and Eva Sandoval are recovering in the pediatric intensive care unit at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. “It’s amazing how strong these girls are and it is amazing what their team performed,” said Aida Sandoval, the twins’ mother. “Seeing them now in the ICU, you look at them and think ‘You’re missing your other half’ but we know that this is the right path for them: to be independent, have the chance to succeed and explore on their own everything the world has to offer,” Sandoval said.
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“They did very well. I’m very pleased with the outcome,” said Gary Hartman, a clinical professor of surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The Sandoval girls are the seventh pair of conjoined twins Hartman has separated and the fifth separation surgery he has done at Stanford. Erika and Eva are now in stable condition in the pediatric intensive care unit, where they are expected to recover for about two weeks. Their physicians anticipate that they will spend an additional two weeks in the hospital before they go home.
Erika and Eva were thoraco-omphalo-ischiopagus twins, positioned facing each other and joined from the lower chest and upper abdomen level down. They had separate hearts and lungs but shared their diaphragm muscle and some anatomical structures below the diaphragm. They each had a stomach but had other connections within their digestive system. They had one liver, one bladder, two healthy kidneys and three legs.
“Before separation, you could think of their anatomy as two people above the rib cage, merging almost into one below the bellybutton,” said plastic and reconstructive surgeon Peter Lorenz, who led the reconstructive phase of the twins’ separation.
The separation team included about 50 people. By the time the twins go home, more than 100 hospital caregivers will have helped with their case, including many physicians and nurses who took care of the mother during her high-risk pregnancy and who cared for the twins as newborns.