Vietnamese doctors graft torso wall for separated conjoined twin

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Doctors in Ho Chi Minh City Tuesday performed a surgery on one of the conjoined twins separated last month, grafting skin taken from his thigh and a mesh to close his torso.

Nguyen Hoang Phi Phung had a hole in his abdomen mostly covered after a five-hour surgery at the Children's Hospital No.2, where the twins have been staying since the day of their birth after being rushed from Ninh Thuan Province hundreds of kilometers away.

His brother Nguyen Hoang Phi Long has always been stronger and got to keep their fused abdominal wall.

They also shared parts of their livers and hearts until separated November 26.

Long has been taken off the respirator for the first time.

Dr Mai Trong Tuong of the Ho Chi Minh City Orthopedics Hospital, who led the surgical team, said Phung's torso was open for a length of 10 centimeters after the separation and has been narrowed to two centimeters.

The mesh was inserted along with two pieces of thigh skin each measuring 5x10 centimeters. The mesh, made of biological materials, would dissolve once the skin grows, Tuong said.

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Dr Truong Quang Dinh, deputy director of the pediatrics hospital and head of the surgery team that separated the boys, said the mesh cost around VND100 million (US$4,700) and was sponsored by a Swiss medical organization working at the hospital.

The graft was done since the child has become stable with increased liver enzyme secretions and the digestive system functioning well, he said.

He has also been implanted with a permanent pacemaker for his heart.

"We were using a temporary pacemaker and his heart was beating slowly, at fewer than 80 beats a minute."

Doctor Nguyen Minh Tri Vien of the Ho Chi Minh City Heart Institute said doctors had to enlarge Phung's plura, the thin membrane that envelops each lung, and pericardial cavity to ensure the heart falls entirely into the chest cavity.

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