JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Doctors at a Soweto hospital today surgically separated 17-month-old twin girls joined at the head since birth.
A 40-person medical team began the operation on Mpho and Mphonyana Mathibela early today and completed the surgery 7 1/2 hours later.
Baragwanath Hospital reported late this afternoon that both girls survived the operation and described it as "successful." No other details were available immediately.
Last September, doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore separated West German twins joined at the head. The boys, Benjamin and Patrick Binder, survived and were released in March, but they reportedly are suffering physical and mental problems.
The Baragwanath medical team, headed by Dr. Robert Lipschitz, performed two operations on the girls last October to prepare for today's surgery.
The girls shared a major blood vessel in their heads, which doctors partially clamped in the earlier operations in hopes lesser blood vessels would take over the functions of the shared vein.
Sophie Mathibela, a 33-year-old domestic worker who earns about $60 a month, gave birth to the twins on Dec. 7, 1986.
She was asked to make a $5 contribution for her daughters' care, which is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The costs are being covered by the hospital and the University of the Witwatersrand medical school.