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Lifesaving surgery for twins

For many parents-to-be, finding out they are expecting identical twins is a double delight, but for some that delight turns to fear when told their babies have a potentially fatal condition, known as Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS).

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS)—which affects approximately one in ten sets of identical twins—occurs when the twins share a single placenta, meaning they share a single blood supply.

This often results in one twin receiving too little blood and amniotic fluid, depriving it of vital blood and nourishment so growth is impeded, while the other twin receives too much blood and amniotic fluid which can cause heart and circulation problems. If left untreated, it can result in the loss of one or both twins.

Mater’s Centre for Maternal Fetal Medicine has been at the forefront of treatment of TTTS since doctors successfully performed Australia’s first in-utero laser surgery on identical twins in March 2002.

As part of the surgery, a camera is inserted into the womb and a laser beam is used to seal off some of the blood vessels in the placenta so that both babies receive a more equal supply of blood. After the laser surgery, the excess amniotic fluid is removed so that both babies have an equal volume.

The team at Mater’s Centre for Maternal Fetal Medicine has since performed more than 200 laser ablations for severe TTTS, with the results and survival outcomes found to be among the best in the world—highlighting Mater’s position at the cutting edge of maternal fetal medicine.

Like most of Mater’s projects, this endeavour to equip Mater Mothers’ Hospitals with not only the expertise but the technology to provide hope to more Australian families, is only made possible through the generous support of our community.

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