Houston – On Tuesday, the Texas Children's Hospital will release photos of conjoined twins that a team of doctors will work to separate.
In Houston, you'd be hard pressed to find a doctor who has as much experience as Dr. Kevin Lally does when it comes to separating conjoined twins. Dr. Lally is the Surgeon-in-Chief at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital. Throughout his 28 years of experience he has separated just one set.
"There are a lot of challenges that any team faces separating twins," Dr. Lally explained. "They are very uncommon. Very rare."
Back in 1997, Dr. Lally was on the surgical team that successful separated Emily and Caitlin Copeland.
"I was anxious… that would be a fair statement. It's not a common operation. There are very few done nationally on a yearly basis - probably less than one."
According to statistics provided by Children's Memorial, conjoined twins make up one in every 200,000 live births. Approximately 40 to 60 percent arrive stillborn, and about 35 percent survive only one day. Today the Copeland sisters are living healthy lives.
Now, 18-years later, another set of conjoined baby girls will face a similar surgery. The Texas Children's Hospital says Knatalye Hope and Adaline Faith Mata were born on April 11th at 31 weeks. At the time they weighed just 3 pounds 7 ounces each - now they are estimated to weigh 10 pounds 4 ounces each.
Speaking from his own experience, Dr. Lally understands what challenges this team of doctors will face.
"You have to have several anesthesiologists, one for each of the babies. You have to have a group of surgeons who can collaborate easily. The communication part becomes really important especially when you're putting them to sleep."
The Mata sisters share a liver, diaphragm, pericardial sac and intestines. Even so, Dr. Lally is hopeful.
"Fortunately it sounds like these babies don't share the heart, just the lining of the heart. So they should be able to be separated. I wish the team well, I really do. I think it's a great group of people that are going to be taking care of [the girls]."
According to the Texas Children's Hospital, plans for surgical separation are currently in the works.