UK Twins

Fetal surgery on UK twins

UK identical twins were saved by a pioneering operation while still inside their mum’s womb. Leon and David Plummer underwent delicate keyhole laser surgery. 

Parents Clare and John were told one may not survive the operation, at Kings College Hospital, London, when mum was just 17 weeks pregnant. But amazingly both did and despite being born three months prematurely – weighing less than 2lbs each – the twins are now thriving at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary. 

Problems began when a scan detected the brothers were suffering from rare twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), meaning blood was passing unevenly between them. Surgery to treat the condition was hailed a success and the couple are now waiting to take their sons home to Gosforth, Newcastle. 

Clare, 32, a carer, said: “It has been a rough ride. “When I was told the twins had the transfusion syndrome it was heartbreaking. “I was told there was a chance I could lose them both by miscarrying or one of them could die during the laser treatment.” 

Leon and David had developed TTTS, also known as feto-fetal transfusion syndrome, meaning blood vessels in their placenta were attached and blood was flowing from one to the other. This can lead to one twin receiving too little blood.

If left untreated, it either leads to the mother suffering a miscarriage or the babies being born ill. Clare had the operation soon after Tyneside doctors spotted the condition. 

The procedure sees a camera inserted into the womb to guide the surgeon as he separates the vessels with a laser. 

Claire added: 

The treatment was very painful, but there was no other option and I’m just glad it worked out all right.

Unfortunately the twins were born premature and were in a critical condition for some time.

As they were in an incubator I wasn’t able to hold them. I found it hard not bonding with my children – I sometimes feel like I'm not their mother. 

Leon weighed 1lb 7oz and John 1lb 11oz when they were born on Wednesday, April 30. The twins are expected to stay at the RVI for up to five weeks and their dad John, 39, siblings Connor, nine, Caitlin, nine, Abby, five, and Piper, three, can’t wait to have the babies home. 

When the brothers do get home they will be on oxygen for several months. Dr Stephen Sturgiss, at the RVI’s foetal medicine unit, said: “When Clare came into our care we confirmed there was more fluid than usual around one of the twins and less fluid than usual around the other. 

“By 17 weeks into the pregnancy it was clear that the situation was not improving. “In order to give the twins the best possible chance of survival, it was decided Clare should have a specialist keyhole laser operation in her tummy to stop any further blood flow between the babies.”

Source : Chronicle Live, 26.07.2008