A conjoined set of twins that had one liver, a protruding tummy and a lower chest were successfully separated, in a 12-hour surgery involving 78 medical personnel, at the National Hospital in Abuja.
Speaking during a briefing held to announce the successful operation, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the feat was an indication that Nigerian hospitals were ready to compete with the best in the world.
The twins were both delivered at the Federal Medical Hospital, Keffi, Nasarawa State before they were referred to the NHA.
The minister said, “This is a demonstration of excellent team work, which also shows that with confidence in the health sector, we can do great things in Nigeria. “One of the reasons why some Nigerians travel abroad for treatment is because they lack confidence in the health sector. They believe that we do not have specialists and the required medical equipment to handle to handle sensitive cases, but this case has shown that we have the expertise. No foreign aid was involved in the surgery.
“The ability of these experts to work together means that we can stand up to many international hospitals, as far as advanced surgery is concerned. This is a complex one involving conjoined twins with one liver.”
The leader of the team that performed the surgery, Prof Emmanuel Ameh, said the twins had to be monitored for 15 months before the separation was done.
He said, “We received the twins on August 14, 2018 and quickly constituted an inter-disciplinary team, including pediatric surgeons, cardiac surgeons, plastic surgeons, nurses, imaging experts, dermatologists and other experts from various medical disciplines, as well as support staff.
“One of the major challenges was that the twins came with their intestines bulging out of the lower part of the tummy, which we quickly resolved.
“We also needed to determine if they could survive separately after separation. We found out that they had two separate hearts that were normal, but with a common cover. They also shared the lower half of the chest and there was only one liver serving the two of them. Other organs were separate and normal.”
Ameh added that before the surgery, the twins needed to grow well in order to withstand the complex surgery. He noted that nutrition and infection control were critical in the preparation.
He added, “We celebrated their first birthday in the ward still conjoined. The surgery was performed on November 14, 2019. By that time they were 15 months-old. A total of 78 medical staff was involved in the 12 and a half hour surgery. We even planned to spend 48 hours, if there was a need for it. After that, the twins spent a week at the Intensive Care Unit before they were taken to the ward.”
Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Jaf Momoh, said at the event that the parents of the twins would have spent more than N20m if they could afford travelling abroad, adding that the hospital took care of all the bills.
He said, “The cost of running a hospital is enormous. The average electricity bill of the National Hospital is about N19m every month. That is why we collect money. “We took it upon ourselves to mobilise resources and invest it on the twins.
If the parents had the means, they would have gone abroad like some other Nigerians and spent at least an equivalent of N20m in foreign currency. It is cheaper doing the surgery here. We cannot quantify the amount spent on the surgery.”
It was not the first time that conjoined twins were separated in a similar operation in a Nigerian hospital. On May 14, 2018, a team of surgeons successfully separated four-month-old conjoined twins at the Federal Medical Centre, Yola.
Also, the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital on June 11 2018, announced that it has separated a conjoined twins referred to the centre from the St. Mary Catholic Hospital, Gwagalada, Abuja.