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Rocky Mountain treatment saves twins in the womb

Posted: 7:26 PM, Mar 11, 2016
Updated: 2016-04-05 01:11:03Z

Shepherd and Baxter are identical twin infants. Together, they have been through a lot before they were even born.

“Right away when we came in and they pulled up the sonogram, I knew right away. They didn't have to tell me. it was just so drastic,” said their mom, Lindsey.

The doctor diagnosed them with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), a serious, progressive disease of the placenta in which one identical twin donates blood to his/her co-twin. The condition occurs in 10 to 15 percent of all identical twin pairs.

“One twin basically gets too much amniotic fluid and can go into heart failure. And the other twin has too little amniotic fluid,” said Dr. Tara Becker, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

If TTTS is not caught in time, both twins will die.

For more than a decade, Denver doctors like Becker had to send their patients out-of-state for twin-to-twin ablation surgery. Now, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, among other hospitals in the area, can perform this surgery in-house. Mom and babies have a minimally invasive procedure that separates their shared circulation.

“What we are able to do is go in through a very small incision about the size of a quarter inch and put in a special telescope with a laser fiber. And we are able to ablate those connections between the two twins. So each one keeps his own blood,” said Dr. Steven Rothenberg, a pediatric surgeon at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

Editor's Note: Children's Hospital Colorado contacted Denver7, seeking to clarify they have been performing TT ablation surgery at the hospital for years. Our previous story suggested Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children was the only area hospital performing this procedure. 

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