Sunday, 21. December 2014
15. 07. 14. - 15:00
Chinese doctors are due to start major surgery tomorrow to separate 10-month-old conjoined twin girls.
Doctors from the Shanghai Children's Medical Center said they had finally managed to get together a team of experts ranging from specialist in general surgery through to heart and orthopaedic experts to make sure that the four hour operation had the best chance of success.
But because the twins Zheng Hanjing and Zheng Hanwei were abandoned shortly after they were born the paperwork necessary to get the approval and raise the cash for the operation took longer than planned, which meant that the best time for the operation to take place had already passed.
Dr Chen Qimin, director of the hospital's surgery department and the girls' chief surgeon, said that despite that no holds had been barred to rush the procedure through as soon as was safe. He also said that the team that were in place was undoubtedly the best one that could be assembled to do the job.
He said: "It is correct that ideally the operation should have taken place some months ago, when the girls' bones were softer. The operation is expected to take about four hours, and of course the operation is a major surgery that brings a risk of infection in the large wounds that will be created."
The twin girls are connected from the lower chest to the upper belly, a length of just under 18 centimetres. They also share one liver which is capable of regenerating and rebuilding itself, and a double-wall membrane that holds the heart in place.
After the girls were abandoned they were taken to a children's home in Pingdingshan in central China's Henan Province. From there, staff contacted the Beijing based Angel Home charity organisation for help and moved the girls to the charity's Beijing centre last August for better medical care.
After consulting many hospitals in Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, the charity and children's home decided to send the girls to the Shanghai Children's Medical Center, where three pairs of conjoined twins have already been separated.
The girls, who weigh a combined 13.7 kilograms, arrived in Shanghai on June 19.
"Based on our experiences from previous conjoined twins, we want not only to separate the girls from each other, but also for them to be able to jump and run like healthy children," Chen said.
Two frames measured to the size of the girls' bodies have been specially made and will support them after surgery to ensure proper healing and growth.
They also take into account the close bond between the little girls.
"The design of the frames allow them to lie face-to-face, exactly as they would before surgery," said Dr Xu Zhuoming, director of the hospital's intensive care unit.
"Conjoined twins have an even more special connection than other twins, as they see each other every time they open their eyes and can touch each other all the time," she added.
"Allowing them see each other after surgery is good for their psychological state and overall stability," said Xu.
In addition to the surgery, after-surgery care is also a challenge. The hospital has allocated a special intensive care unit room for the girls, as their care is very complicated, according to Xu.
The little girls both have congenital curvature of the spine.
While this will not be treated in this surgery, doctors said they will follow the girls' progress and offer proper guidance concerning their situation.
A representative from the Pingdingshan children's home in Henan said staff were touched by the care and kindness the twins were receiving in Shanghai.
He said the money for the sisters' surgery was collected through donations from individuals and companies.
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