Irish twins

Ireland's first in-utero surgery a great success

The first operation in Ireland to be performed on babies while they were still in the womb has been reported by the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin.

In July 2007 the Rotunda hospital in Dublin, Ireland, said it successfully performed in-utero surgery to save the lives of twin boys who got into difficulty 20 weeks into the pregnancy of 35-year-old Cork woman Margaret Kershaw.

The babies had been suffering from a complication known as Twin-to-Twin-Transfusion Syndrome which occurs when abnormal blood vessels in the placenta transfuse too much blood into one baby, while the other baby is left with too little blood.

If untreated it leads to the death of both babies in nearly all cases. The condition only affects identical twins. About one-third of all twin pregnancies are identical, and up to one-quarter of these identical twins can develop the syndrome.

The in-utero procedure, called a fetoscopy, was performed last January at 21 weeks into the pregnancy. The operation is available in a small number of European hospitals and in the US, but was never performed in Ireland before.

A camera less than one-eighth of an inch thick was inserted through Ms Kershaw's abdomen and into the womb and lasers were used to find and fix the abnormal blood vessels in the babies' placenta.

Ms. Kershaw was released from hospital the day after the operation. She went into early labour at 33 weeks and her twin boys were delivered by Cesarean section on March 28th last.

The babies named Ryan and Dylan weighed 2.14kg and 2.16 kg respectively.

"The boys spent two weeks in the Rotunda Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and were then discharged home in perfect condition. Now the babies are four- months-old and are thriving," a spokesman for the hospital said.

Ryan and Dylan Kershaw with their mother and father