One-year-old twin girls who were born conjoined at the head have slept in separate beds for the first time after being separated.
Surgeons carried out a complicated procedure to transform the babies’ life chances, only the 20th time it has been completed.
The 12-hour operation means the sisters, who were joined by the backs of their heads, can make eye contact for the first time.
They both required cranial reconstruction and skin grafts to their scalps but are making good recoveries.
Dozens of experts were drafted in from around the world to plan the difficult procedure, the first of its kind in Israel.
Mickey Gideon, chief paediatric neurosurgeon at Soroka Medical Centre, Beersheba, called the feat ‘rare and complex’.
The pair were pictured in their cot facing one another, their heads wrapped in bandages, clearly fascinated by one another.
Eldad Silberstein, the head of Soroka’s plastic surgery department, told Israel’s Channel 12 news: ‘They are recovering nicely. They are breathing and eating on their own.’
Scientists believe conjoined twins occur when the fertilised egg fails to split entirely in two, as should happen when twins are conceived.
The phenomenon is exceptionally rare but surgeons have made huge progress in increasing the life expectancy of those born with the defect in recent decades.
According to London’s Great Ormond Street hospital, the condition only arises in every 2.5 million births.
Only 5% of cases involve craniopagus, where the twins are joined at the skull, and the condition is about twice as likely to affect girls than boys.
The majority of twins born fused at the head are stillborn, die during labour or don’t survive their first 24 hours.
Only around one in 10 million births will result in a case of conjoined twins connected at the skull which make it to surgery.
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