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Surgeons separate conjoined twins

Chilean doctors have successfully separated conjoined twins in a marathon 20-hour surgery, saying that the operation went extremely well despite challenges.

The 10-month-old girls, Maria Paz and Maria Jose, are recovering in an intensive care unit and doctors said the next two days would be critical as they watch for infections or other possible complications.

Parents Jessica Navarrete and Roberto Paredes kept an anxious vigil at Luis Calvo Mackenna Hospital in Santiago as doctors separated the twins at the thorax, abdomen and pelvis. It was the seventh and most complex operation yet for the twins.

Doctors successfully separated the twins late on Tuesday night. Chief surgeon Francisco Ossandon described it as the moment "the girls finished the process of being born". "Before, they had two souls and one body," Mr Ossandon said.

Surgery on one of the twins was completed early on Wednesday after 19 hours, while for the other it took more than 20 hours.

"We had a number of difficulties during the surgery. There were some surprises, but we were able to fix, solve the problems," Mr Ossandon said at a news conference.

He added that the twins came out of the surgery in good condition, but did not rule out future complications involving the effects from anaesthetic and possible infections. "We're very happy because we think they've had the best evolution we could have hoped for," he said.

The girls' parents appeared in televised images as they kissed the twins before the operation. Then afterward, the mother and father gazed lovingly at the sleeping girls from beside their separate cribs in the intensive care unit.

Some Chilean television stations occasionally broke into their regular programming to broadcast updates from the doctors, during and after the delicate surgery.

The Chilean twins presented a particularly difficult challenge because they were born sharing many of the same internal organs and even urinary system. About 100 people participated in the procedure, including 25 surgeons and anaesthetists.

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