In-utero laser surgery saves lives of two sets of twins

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome requires urgent intervention from doctors or it can be fatal

Doctors at Corniche Hospital successfully performed novel fetoscopic laser procedures to save both sets of unborn twins. Photo: Corniche Hospital

Two sets of twins were saved by doctors in Abu Dhabi after they were diagnosed with Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS).

The unborn identical twins were suffering from the rare condition that has an almost 100 per cent fatality rate if left untreated. The condition is created when twins share one placenta and a number of blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients that are essential for development in the womb.

Laser surgery is required to treat the condition which seals off abnormal blood vessel connections, stopping the dangerous sharing of fluids. With laser surgery, in up to 70 per cent of cases both twins can survive a full-term pregnancy, and in up to 90 per cent of cases, at least one baby can be saved.

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I would encourage mothers with monochorionic twins to have their pregnancy follow-up done with the right doctors to identify any issue early on
Noor Alsamrai, diagnosed with TTTS

Both mothers have shared their stories to mark Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome Awareness Day on December 7.

“It’s been a year since I had the procedure at 18 weeks of pregnancy,” said Noor Alsamrai, who gave birth to twins Ibrahim and Abdallah Yousef Ali Albairaq on March 16.

“Compared to my home town in Sweden, I was impressed with the fast diagnosis, advanced treatment and smooth co-ordination between Corniche and the referring hospital here in the UAE.

“I would encourage mothers with monochorionic twins to have their pregnancy follow-up done with the right doctors to identify any issue early on.”

Twins Ibrahim and Abdallah after their mother was successfully treated for TTTS. Photo: Seha

The dangerous condition occurs in around 15 per cent of monochorionic twins as the shared placenta can cause complications due to unbalanced blood supply to each foetus.

Doctors at Corniche Hospital successfully performed novel fetoscopic laser procedures to save both sets of unborn twins. The highly complex operation involved entering the womb through the mother’s belly.

The novel fetoscopic laser procedure is only carried out at a few specialised hospitals in the world. Corniche Hospital’s Advanced Fetal Medicine Unit is one of the facilities in the region offering advanced diagnostic services for unborn children and complex foetal therapy to treat foetal abnormalities or diseases while the baby is still in the mother’s uterus.

“My twins were diagnosed with TTTS at week 24 of my pregnancy,” said Maitha Almheiri, mother of twins Mohammed and Ahmed Rashid Salem Alshamsi.

“I was feeling tired, unable to breathe or eat properly. I felt inflated and had contractions.

“I was referred to the Advanced Fetal Medicine Unit at Corniche Hospital for the laser procedure.

“Post the procedure, I felt relieved as I started feeling and breathing better, even while still in the operating room under local anaesthesia.”

Ms Almheiri's twins were born on May 16.

Doctors at the specialised unit have performed around 122 novel fetoscopic laser procedures to date.

Dr Leanne Bricker, chairwoman of the Fetal Medicine and Imaging Department at Corniche Hospital, encouraged women to get checked for the condition.

“We strongly advise women pregnant with monochorionic twins to have their ultrasound examinations and follow-up undertaken by a foetal medicine specialist who has the expertise and knowledge to identify potential problems on an ultrasound scan early in the pregnancy.”

Women carrying monochorionic twins can arrange to be checked for TTTS by calling their local health authority.

Updated: December 8th 2021, 3:30 AM