Vietnamese doctors separate conjoined twins, babies doing well

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Doctors at Ho Chi Minh City's Children's Hospital No.2 operate on a pair of conjoined twins who were fused in the torso Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Lao Dong

Doctors in Ho Chi Minh City Tuesday successfully separated a pair of conjoined twins who had fused but separate hearts, livers, and bile ducts.

The 14-month-old brothers from the central province of Ninh Thuan have received intensive care at Children's Hospital No.2, one of the top pediatrics facilities in the city, since birth, and weighed 13 kilograms before the surgery.

Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Dr Truong Quang Dinh, deputy director of the hospital, as saying the case was "very complicated" due to the shared organs.

The boys were linked at the chest and abdomen.

"I know that medicine cannot be perfect, but I still hope the hearts and wisdom of 70 people can work magic," Dinh said in a post on his Facebook page before the surgery.

They did after a nearly 11-hour operation by the 70 doctors he referred to. They were from his hospital, the Ho Chi Minh City Heart Institute, and the HCMC Orthopedics Hospital.

"The team was large since many tasks needed doing," he explained.

"The surgery so far is a success. The babies are quite stable now but will be monitored," he told Tuoi Tre. The babies were sent to the ICU soon after the surgery.

Dinh said one of the babies, Nguyen Hoang Phi Long, was strong and ate well while the other, Nguyen Hoang Phi Phung, was struggling with complications from congenital brain bleeding and pneumonia.

Phung has been on a respirator for around a year and suffered from a narrowed heart valve, which made the use of anesthesia on him problematic.

The surgery became imperative since any severe deterioration in the weaker baby's condition would threaten both of them, Dinh said.

"We set to save both babies"¦ And all the problems so far were anticipated and are under control.

"Long was stronger and thus the surgery worked out smoother for him "¦ But both babies' organs are stable and they have an equal chance of recovery."

After the surgery, Phung's torso was exposed from the breastbone to the navel, and the 12-centimeter-long area has received an artificial cover made of biological ingredients.

Dinh said since the case was more complicated than any other conjoined twins the hospital has admitted, it did not perform the surgery immediately when the babies were brought last year, and decided to put them under special care until they were strong enough. The hospital operated on three other conjoined twins this year.

"For this case, we consulted doctors at leading hospitals in Vietnam and overseas to come up with the best solutions."

The infants' mother, Nguyen Thi Hong Lam, 21, was told in the 25th week of pregnancy that her babies were conjoined, but she and her husband, Nguyen Thanh Phien, 26, rejected suggestions to abort them.

The couple brought the babies all the way to the HCMC hospital just a day after their birth following respiratory problems, and have been staying in the city, doing odd jobs to earn money.

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