By Bilal Kuchay

Doctors in India have successfully separated conjoined twin boys who were attached at the abdomen and hip in a marathon surgical procedure that lasted 12 hours and involved 20 doctors.

In what doctors call an extremely rare birth – one in 500,000 – the twins, Love and Prince Zalte, were attached from lower part of the chest and shared a common liver, intestine, bladder and pelvic bone since their birth on September 19 last year.

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The high risk surgery that started at 4am.on Tuesday involved a team of 20 doctors including paediatric surgeons, anaesthetists, orthopaedic surgeons, gynaecologists among others.

The hospital had shut down seven of its operation theatres and only kept one emergency operation theatre open so that the team of specialists could be fully focussed on this surgery.

Dr. Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO of the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital, said: “At tender age of 1 year and 3 months, Love and Prince underwent this complicated surgery and are currently stable in Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.

“They will be under observation for few days which will be followed by multiple surgeries to ensure they are healthy and fit to survive.”

Since they were fused from below the chest level, doctors had to use a large quantity of artificial membrane to cover their body post the surgery.

Dr. Bodhanwala said: “The most challenging part of the surgery was to provide skin to cover both the children.”

The twins are currently recovering in intensive care, and have been placed in separate beds for the first time in their lives.

“It was easier to plan the surgery as Love and Prince were born at Wadia itself.

“The care and treatment will continue till they are hale and hearty,” said Dr Bodhanwala.

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The parents of the twins, mother Sheetal Zalte, 26, and Sagar Zalte, 27, in Ghatkopar in Mumbai are elated that their children are stable despite the rare surgery.

Sheetal Zalte, who was told about the condition of the twins when she was in 24th week of her pregnancy, said: “It is hard to express in words how happy I will be to hold my children in both my arms.”

She added: “I learnt about their conjoint condition from a gynaecologist in Vadodara when I was in 24th week of her pregnancy.”

Once the twins were delivered at Wadia Hospital, doctors told Sheetal and Sagar that they could be separated surgically, after a few months.

The Zalte’s ensured Love and Prince were present for all follow up sessions and extensive investigations were conducted before the surgery.

Love and Prince is the the third set of conjoined twins separated successfully at Wadia Hospital.

Births of conjoined twins are believed to occur just once in every 200,000 live births.

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Approximately 40 to 60 percent of conjoined twins arrive stillborn, and about 35 percent survive only one day.

The overall survival rate of conjoined twins is somewhere between 5 percent and 25 percent.

For some reason, female siblings seem to have a better shot at survival than their male counterparts.