Angelica Sabuco, Angelina Sabuco
Marcio Jose Sanchez  /  AP
Angelica Sabuco, 2, right, and her twin sister Angelina play together at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Monday, in Stanford, Calif.
By
updated 11/1/2011 8:11:07 PM ET 2011-11-02T00:11:07

Twin 2-year-old girls who were joined at the chest and abdomen were separated Tuesday during a lengthy, complex procedure at Stanford University's children's hospital.

Philippines-born sisters Angelina and Angelica Sabuco were undergoing an expected nine hours of surgery by a team of more than 20 doctors and nurses to gain their independence.

By mid-afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Reena Mukamal announced the girls had been separated and moved to their own operating rooms for the second phase of surgery — reconstructing the area where they were connected.

Mukamal said doctors were pleased with the progress of the operation so far at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto.

Dr. Gary Hartman, lead surgeon on the case, had said keeping the girls connected carried bigger risks for their health than the separation procedure.

Angelica Sabuco, Angelina Sabuco, Ginady Sabuco
Marcio Jose Sanchez  /  AP
Angelica Sabuco, 2, at left, and her twin sister Angelina, at right, are brought in for a meeting with the press along with their mother Ginady Sabuco, center, at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Monday in Stanford, Calif.

If one conjoined twin dies, the other will die within hours. Muscular and skeletal deformities can also worsen with time.

Ginady Sabuco, the girls' mother, has said the parents want them to live normally.

"When they argue, they can be alone. When they play, they can play together or apart," she said Monday.

The surgery required separating livers, diaphragms, breastbones, chest and abdominal wall muscles.

The reconstruction includes covering the holes that remained after the girls were separated. Surgeons had stretched their skin prior to the operation to patch the area.

The children were expected to be in the hospital for two to three weeks.

Angelina and Angelica came to the United States with their mother last year. They live in San Jose with their parents and 10-year-old brother.

Given their otherwise good health, doctors were optimistic about a successful operation. Hartman has performed five other separations. This is the second such surgery at Stanford.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Conjoined twins successfully separated

  1. Closed captioning of: Conjoined twins successfully separated

    >>> two young girls who lived their whole lives as conjoined twins are waking up this morning on their own for the first time. miguel almaguer is outside the hospital in palo alto , california, with more on the risky surgery that turned out to be a big success. good morning to you.

    >> reporter: matt, good morning to you. doctors say the operation couldn't have gone any better. today both girls are doing well, they are by each other's side but they're no longer connected. the surgery lasted nearly ten hours, a complex high stakes procedure that separated conjoined twins angelina and angelica sabucco, the 2 years old connected at the chest and abdomen since birth. todayxd they'll spend their first day apart.

    >> first of all i thank god for everything. this is a dream come true.

    >> reporter: fused together at the liver the team of 20 doctors and nurses knew the operation would be risky, massive bleeding, strokes and heart attacks were major concerns, but surgery for angelina and angelica was possible because each girl had her own heart, brain and kidneys. inside the e.r., lead surgeon gary hartmann said there were no major setbacks.

    >> long-term prognosis we would expect happy, healthy set of girls. we don't see any barriers to complete recovery.

    >> reporter: conjoined twins like angelina and angelica are rare, just one to every 50,000 to 100,000 births worldwide. their survival rate is just 25%.

    >> peekaboo!

    >> reporter: but the girls showed fight from the very beginning. their mom says since their birth in the philippines, the twins have always been playful, energetic and close. when angel ka would cough, angelina would pat her sister's back. their parents sought out dr. hartmann who four years ago performed his first successful operation on another set of conjoined twins .

    >> we will be grately eternal. god bless us all.

    >> my expectation is that they will bounce back from this quite well. young children are very resilient.

    >> reporter: two special sisters now living separate lives but their bond forever strong . the girls will spend the next few days in intensive care and about a week or so in a regular room. their family says there will be an adjustment period but it's one they couldn't be happier about. matt?

    >> miguel , what a great story, miguel almaguer in california thank

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