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S. Korean Conjoined Twins Separated in Singapore Hospital - 2003-07-22

Four-month-old South Korean twins joined at the pelvis were separated Tuesday at the same Singapore hospital where Iranian sisters died in a similar operation two weeks ago. Doctors have expressed optimism for the babies' recovery.

The separation of Min Ji Hye and Min Sa Rang took place after only one hour and 40 minutes of surgery at Raffles Hospital. Dr. Prem Kumair Nair said the team of surgeons then proceeded with another several hours of corrective surgery aimed at enabling the girls to develop normally.

The team of specialists was led by Dr. Yang Ching Yu, and included Dr. Keith Goh. Dr. Goh is the neurosurgeon who headed the international surgical team that recently tried unsuccessfully to separate 29-year-old Iranian twins fused at their heads.

Fourteen days after the Iranian women's deaths, Dr. Nair expressed optimism over the prospects for the Korean babies, and spoke of the complexity of the operation.

"Members of the team include specialists in the field of neurosurgery, pediatric surgery, plastic surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, urology, orthopedic surgery, pediatrics and anesthesia," he said. "Separation surgery is essential to enable the girls to walk and to develop as normal children."

Dr. Nair said the Korean twins were fused at the lower end of the spine, in the colorectal region and at the end of the genital tract. Dr. Yang, a colorectal surgeon, said the babies had to be separated at this stage to prevent possible skull and spinal deformities.

This was the third operation on conjoined twins for Dr. Goh. He also led the team that successfully separated Nepalese sisters fused at the head in April of 1991.

The Korean twins' parents had consulted experts at Raffles Hospital before the operation on Ladan and Laleh Bijani, the two Iranian women. The parents also sought a second opinion at a London hospital, and were in London when the Iranians died, but they eventually decided to have the surgery done at Raffles.

Dr. Nair said the surgeons on his team were waiving their fees. A fundraising effort has been underway in South Korea to help pay more than $28,000 in hospital costs.