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Joined at the head, Canadian twins said doing well

Written by: Staff

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Oct 27 (Reuters) Twin girls, joined at the head, are doing well a day after their birth, but Canadian doctors said it could be three or four months before they will know if they can be separated.

The British Columbia Women's Hospital in Vancouver said it was not a foregone conclusion that a separation of the babies, named Krista and Tatiana, will be attempted even if medically possible as the family weighs decisions on their future.

Doctors said they do not know yet how much of their brains the babies share, but they said it was clear from the girls' physical responses that their bodies interact closely.

''If you stimulated or tickle the legs of one, the other's legs also responded. So they have a bonding that is quite different than we would expect under any other (circumstance),'' said Doug Cochrane, a pediatric neurosurgeon.

Doctors said preliminary tests conducted after birth did not provide additional information. Tests before birth indicated the twins shared at least two brain lobes but had separate brain stems.

A medical team performed a caesarean section on the mother, Felicia Simms, 21, of Vernon, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

The twins, born several weeks premature, had a combined weight of 5,760 grams and are of equal size and length.

The babies were described as ''wiggly, vigorous and very vocal'' at birth. They are breathing without medical assistance and appear otherwise healthy, doctors said.

''We've had no problems looking after them in the first day of life because they are stable,'' said Brian Lupton, clinical director of the hospital's neonatal unit.

Doctors said before they can begin tests to determine the amount of shared brain, they must make sure the twins' bodies are strong enough to survive the testing procedures.

Doctors said the mother was also in good health but tired.

She and the girls' father were able to hold the babies hands before the twins were put into the special care unit.

As part of the procedure, Krista was coded with a green band and Tatiana a pink one to allow doctors to keep track of who is who.

Medical experts have said that being joined at the top of the head is rare even for conjoined twins.

Doctors said the family faces difficult ethical and moral choices on whether to separate the girls even if separation proves medically possible.

''One of the challenges is that individuals have been separated at an age when they could not provide input into that decision,'' Lupton said.

Deborah Money, who was part of the 16-member medical team that delivered the twins, said there were no major problems during the surgery and joked it was stressful largely because of the media scrutiny.

The family allowed a television camera into the operating room to record the delivery.

The family was not at the news conference yesterday, but hospital officials said they had asked the medical team to meet with the media to describe what had happened.

Reuters DKS VP0456

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