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Friday, 27 October, 2000, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
World first Siamese op 'a success'
The operation took 12 hours
An Australian operation to separate Siamese twins joined at the back of the skull appears to have been successful.

A team of surgeons led by neurosurgeon Dr Scott Campbell worked for 12 hours on Tay-lah and Monique Armstrong at the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane.

I felt I had just given birth, but without the pain

Dr Scott Armstrong, Surgeon
Both are now progressing well and have resumed feeding after moving from intensive care into a general ward.

Parents Pacquita Armstrong and father Shane Conyard say they hope to be able to take the girls home for Christmas.

There have only been 30 attempts world-wide between 1928 and 1987 to separate head-joined Siamese twins.

Only 26 of the 60 twins survived these procedures.

Pioneering op

But it is thought that the particular circumstances faced by the doctors, in which the twins were both "upside down and back to front", made this a pioneering operation.

Advanced technology was used by the surgeons to navigate their way through a delicate maze of blood vessels.

The doctors used detailed magnetic resonance scans to construct a three dimensional model of the joined heads.

In addition, mannequins were constructed so that staff could prepare for the moment in the operation at which they would have to be carefully turned over.

One dislodged tube at this point could have spelled disaster.

Dr Campbell said that the first fortnight after the operation was crucial.

He said: "We have many potential complications in the next seven to 14 days and I think we will be taking it one day at a time."

The potential success, however, has left him jubilant.

"It took my breath away. I couldn't believe it. Two different babies. I felt I had just given birth, but without the pain."

The twins were left with 7.5cm holes in their skulls, and were given further reconstructive surgery.

Tay-lah, the weaker twin, has already undergone surgery to correct a congenital heart defect., and has slight brain damage and kidney failure.

Both were certainly considered capable of independent life by surgeons, unlike the case of Jodie and Mary in the UK, in which one twin would certainly die during surgery in order to preserve the other.

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See also:

24 Oct 00 | Health
Date set for Siamese op
28 Sep 00 | Health
Siamese twins op to go ahead
06 Sep 00 | Health
Experts back twins' separation
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