Doctors to separate Iranian sisters
- Conjoined twins in critical stage
Dr. Alex Lee, left, and Dr. Ong Biauw Chi, right, work to separate
the twins as the operation began in Singapore Sunday.
Ladan, left and Laleh Bijani, both 29, said they'd rather risk the
surgery than continue living joined together.
Surgery to separate Iranian sisters could take 4 days
SINGAPORE, July 7 Neurosurgeons performing a dangerous,
marathon operation to separate Iranian sisters joined at the head
grappled Monday with rerouting a vein as thick as a finger that helps
blood flow through the twins' brains.
`While we are cautiously optimistic, there are some twists and turns
that we will have to navigate.'
DR. PREM KUMAR
AN INTERNATIONAL team of five neurosurgeons probed the
brains of 29-year-old Ladan and Laleh Bijani as a crucial phase began
in a historic operation expected to last two to four days, said a
spokesman for Singapore's Raffles Hospital.
Surgeons planned to begin separating the twins' brains later
Monday after encountering an unexpected delay in cutting through the
skulls when the bone turned out to be denser than previously thought,
Dr. Prem Kumar said at a news conference.
"The procedure took six hours longer than originally
expected because the bones were thick and compact, especially in
the areas where the two skull bones fuse," Kumar said.
But he stressed the delay was not a problem.
"While we are cautiously optimistic, there are some twists and
turns that we will have to navigate. The twins are taking to the
procedure quite well," he said.
The operation could kill one or both of the sisters, but after
a lifetime of compromising on everything from when to wake up to what
career to pursue, the Bijani sisters said they would rather face
those dangers than continue living joined.
"Both of them have an equal chance (to live), we're giving
them an equal chance, we're not compromising," Kumar said.
The shared vein is the biggest obstacle in the surgery: Other
than sharing the vein, the women's brains are not joined though
they touch inside their skulls. Their bodies are otherwise distinct.
German doctors told the twins in 1996 that the shared vein,
which drains blood from their brains, made surgery too dangerous.
Doctors on Sunday removed a vein from Ladan Bijani's thigh and
will use that to compensate for diverting the shared vein to one
sister's brain. Doctors have not yet determined which sister will
keep the finger-thick vein and which will receive the graft, Kumar
Surgeons worked simultaneously in front of and behind the
twins, who are sitting in a custom-built brace connected to an array
of lines feeding them intravenously and monitoring their vital
The twins spent months training at a gym to build up
strength for the surgery and Kumar said they could be kept asleep for
four days if necessary.
The twins said they wanted to walk into the operating room as
a sign of courage, but they were brought in by wheelchair because
they were too tired to stand, Kumar said.
The neurosurgeons are used to working 12-hour stretches
without pause, Kumar said. Participating neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin
Carson, the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins
Children's Center in Baltimore, has successfully separated three sets
of craniopagus twins siblings born joined at the head.
However, this is the first time surgeons have tried to
separate adult craniopagus twins. The surgery has only been performed
successfully since 1952 on infants, whose brains can more easily
adapt and recover.
Doctors work to separate Iranian sisters
July 6, 2003 Two adult sisters from Iran -- joined at the head --
are undergoing surgery to be separated. But NBC's Don Lemon reports
the procedure also carries with it the ultimate risk.
"If God wants us to live the rest of our lives as two
separate, independent individuals, we will," Ladan Bijani said before
The Bijani sisters were born in Firouzabad in southern Iran in
1974. In a statement read on state-run Iran television late Sunday,
President Mohammad Khatami hoped for success.
"The prayers of the Iranian nation are with you," Khatami said
in a message addressed to the medical team. "I hope to see my patient
daughters Laleh and Ladan healthy and fresh as soon as possible."
An international team of 28 doctors and about 100 medical
assistants were enlisted for the surgery. The $288,000 cost of the
operation surgery is being underwritten by Raffles Hospital, and the
doctors' fees are being waived.
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