Doctors separated the brains of conjoined twins Safa and Marwa Ullah after 50 hours of surgery.
The two-year-olds were born in Peshawar, Pakistan as craniopagus twins, or twins conjoined at the skull. Their mother, Zainal Bibi, was reportedly told surgery to separate them would likely kill one of the girls. But a few months later, the family met Noor ul Owase Jeelani, a neurosurgeon in London, who had successfully treated two similar cases.
The twins’ family worked to organize travel to London, raise money, and get British visas. In February 2019, they were separated successfully at Great Ormand Street Hospital in London, following 50 total hours of surgery over four months.
Doctors prepared for the operation by using 3D printing and virtual reality replicas of the twins. First, they separated the girls’ brains and blood vessels, then they used a piece of plastic to finalize the separation. Finally, they stretched the skin and rebuilt parts of the girls’ skulls.
Only 5% of conjoined twins are connected at the skull. Of the roughly 50 sets of twins born with conjoined skulls around the world each year, only an average of 15 live for more than 30 days.
Safa and Marwa have been in recovery at the hospital for months. At the beginning of July, the girls were well enough to go home.