MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Doctors say 3-D imaging technology developed at the University of Minnesota was a key element in a recent surgery to separate conjoined twins.

Doctors from the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital used technology from the school to create a reconstruction of the twins' hearts to prepare for the successful surgery, KARE-TV (http://kare11.tv/2uuoxoa ) reported.

"It felt like the future of medicine, it was really exciting," said Dr. Matthew Ambrose, University of Minnesota Masonic Children's pediatric cardiologist. "It was an amazing experience to go over and in three dimension, it was something we had to construct in our heads only up until that time."

Paisleigh and Paislyn Martinez were born six weeks early in February, conjoined from chest to abdomen. They were connected at the chest, heart and liver. The twins also lacked a breastbone.

Conjoined twins occur about once in every 200,000 births, according to university physicians. Twins who are connected at the heart face the highest risk of death.

Using the imaging technology, doctors also discovered that Paislyn had a congenital heart defect and that Paisleigh was doing most of the work to keep them alive.

The surgery was completed in nine hours on May 25.

"This was an extraordinary experience, to see these girls come out. What was amazing too, they clearly already had a relationship with each other, they reached out and touched each other," said Dr. Thomas George, University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital neonatologist.

The babies are expected to remain in the hospital for another four to five months. They'll need to wear protective gear around their hearts when they return home because they lack a breastbone. Paislyn will also need several more heart surgeries to address the heart defect.

"They are not done fighting, they are not. They still have a long road," said Paris Bryan, the twins' mother.

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Information from: KARE-TV, http://www.kare11.com