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Conjoined Twin Girls Successfully Separated

Conjoined twins Angelica and Angelina Sabuco shortly before surgery with their aunt. Courtesy Sabuco Family(STANFORD, Calif.) -- Angelica and Angelina Sabuco, the two-year-old twin girls born connected at the chest and abdomen, successfully underwent separation surgery on Tuesday at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.

Doctors told local media the surgery went well and "things basically could not have gone better."

One of the surgeons, Dr. Matias Bruzoni, said "the liver was the toughest part." The girls shared the liver, diaphragms, breast bones and chest, and abdominal wall muscles.

Doctors said the fact the girls' hearts are separate apart from the tips made the operation safer and easier.

The girls will spend about four or five days in the intensive care unit, then about another week in a regular hospital room. After that, they will head home to San Jose, Calif. with their family.

While their mother, Ginady Sabuco, is overjoyed the surgery went well, it was an agonizing two-year journey from learning her babies were conjoined to seeing them finally able to live as two separate little girls.

She found out her baby girls were joined at the chest and abdomen, a condition called thoraco-omphalopagus, when she was seven months pregnant. The news was even tougher to take because at the time, she and her son were living in the Philippines while her husband was working in San Jose.

Sabuco and her children came to the U.S. in September 2010, and a couple of months later, doctors at Packard Children's started evaluating the girls. After months of tests and preliminary procedures, doctors said the twins were ready for separation surgery, but warned that if one twin died, the other would die within hours.

While the hospital wouldn't discuss the cost of the surgery, they said part of the expenses were paid for by the family's medical insurance.

Doctors say the twins need to be separated in order to prevent future health problems, including muscular and skeletal deformities and the psychological stresses of being conjoined.

According to Packard Children's, only about six separation surgeries are done every year in the U.S. Most conjoined twins never survive pregnancy, and only about 25 percent of those who are born will live.

ABC News reported back in September that there have only been about two dozen sets of conjoined twins in the world who were successfully separated. If the surgery goes well, Angelica and Angelina will overcome huge odds.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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