Twin girls born joined at the head and separated in a complex, 23-hour surgery may soon return home to Guatemala after more than two months of recovery.

Maria de Jesus and Maria Teresa Quiej Alvarez could leave Los Angeles as early as Tuesday, doctors at Mattel Children's Hospital at the University of California at Los Angeles said Friday.

Doctors remain optimistic that the twins will fully recover and lead normal lives.

"From the beginning, we saw the girls as two separate individuals leading their own lives," said UCLA neurosurgeon Jorge Lazareff. "It is hard to say goodbye, but we look forward to hearing future news about two communions, two educations, two boyfriends and two weddings."

The departure date depends on Maria de Jesus's recovery from a surgery to clean and close her scalp incisions, UCLA spokeswoman Elaine Schmidt said.

Maria Teresa, whose recovery has lagged behind her sister's because of follow-up surgeries, has shown signs of improvement. She kicks her legs when placed on her belly and looks at visitors when they speak to her, according to a statement from UCLA.

A medical team, including a pediatrician, three nurses and a physical therapist, will accompany the girls and their parents on the five-hour flight.

Once the twins are in Guatemala, doctors will work gradually to stretch the girls' scalps to eliminate the skin grafts and allow them to grow full heads of hair, said Henry Kawamoto Jr., the lead plastic surgeon on the medical team that separated the two.