Conjoined twins separated after 50 hours of surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital

Sarah Knapton
Safa and Marwa Ullah - PA

Conjoined twins, born with their skulls and blood vessels fused together, have been separated at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

Two-year-old sisters Safa and Marwa Ullah, from Charsadda in Pakistan, underwent three major operations to separate their heads.

The first operation took place in October 2018, when the girls were 19 months old. The last operation, which saw them finally separated, was carried out on February 11 this year.

The girls' mother, Zainab Bibi, 34, said: “We are indebted to the hospital and to the staff and we would like to thank them for everything they have done. 

“We are extremely excited about the future.”

Experts used virtual reality to create an exact replica of the girls' anatomy and printed out 3D plastic models that could be used to practice. 

During the surgery, doctors first worked to separate the girls' blood vessels and then inserted a piece of plastic into their heads to keep the brains and blood vessels apart.

The twins had been joined at the head Credit: PA

The final operation involved medics building new skulls using the girls' own bone.

The operations added up to more than 50 hours of surgery time and involved 100 members of staff from Great Ormond Street and was paid for by a private donor.

The twins are now undergoing daily physiotherapy as part of their ongoing rehabilitation.

Neurosurgeon Noor ul Owase Jeelani said: “We are delighted we have been able to help Safa and Marwa and their family.

“It has been a long and complex journey for them, and for the clinical team looking after them.

“Gosh really is one of the few hospitals in the world with the infrastructure and expertise to carry out a separation like this successfully.”

Conjoined twins are very rare - affecting only about one in every 2.5 million births.

The surgeons also announced the foundation of a new charity called Gemini Untwined, which will raise funds to carry out medical and scientific research into, and the treatment of, conditions potentially requiring craniofacial or neurosurgery, including craniopagus conjoined twins.

Cecelia Carney, team leader of Gosh's neurosurgery theatre, said: "The intricacies of the series of surgical procedures were planned meticulously as a team."

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