MELBOURNE: Australian doctors successfully separated joined-at-the-head Bangladeshi twins after more than 24 hours of surgery today, saying the girls were “in great shape” but faced a difficult recovery.

Two-year-old Trishna and Krishna, rescued from certain death in a Dhaka orphanage, were placed in induced comas after leaving the operating theatre unattached for the first time, doctors said.

“The moment of separation was a rather surreal moment,” Leo Donnan, chief of surgery at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, told reporters.

“There was relief but I think everyone realised there was still a long way to go and that the girls have a very difficult time ahead of them.” Doctors worked through the night to prise apart the twins’ brain tissue at about 11:00 am (0000 GMT) before reconstruction experts closed up their heads using bone and skin tissue, some 32 hours after they were wheeled into the operating room.

“The girls have now come out of the theatre and they’re in intensive care,” Donnan said.

“Everything’s gone very well. They’re in great shape which is fantastic... they’re both in good condition and healthy. I think they’re better than we thought they’d be.” The girls will spend the next few days sedated, on ventilators and under close monitoring before being gradually woken up, Donnan said, adding they faced myriad possible dangers.

“They’ve got a long process to go through and it will be many days before we know how well it’s gone,” he said.

“There are still considerable risks they’ve got to face, like any child who’s been through a major procedure. They’ve got a long recovery ahead of them — there are many unknowns after this sort of surgery.” Moira Kelly, the girls’ legal guardian who brought them to Australia from Bangladesh, was said to be overcome by the day’s dramatic developments.

Some 16 specialists worked through the night, taking occasional food and rest breaks and listening to pop music in the operating theatre to stay alert, as the operation ran hours past its scheduled midnight finish.

Donnan said there was quiet elation among the surgeons when they finally separated the girls after more than 24 hours of painstaking work. “Everyone has known these girls as one with their individual personalities, so to see them as separate human beings is a pretty amazing moment,” he said.

The girls were brought to Australia in November 2007 after spending their first few months in the Mother Teresa home in Dhaka, where aid workers became alarmed at their fading health.

But they were nursed back to health, developing a unique system of crawling on their backs and a love of Australian children’s band “The Wiggles”, as they underwent a series of preparatory operations.