Innovative In-Womb Surgery Saves Twins’ Lives Before They Were Born

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 10, 2014   |   3:34PM   |   Washington, DC

An innovative surgery in the womb saved the lives of twin babies before they were ever born.

The twins hadtwins13 a rare condition called Twin Twin Transfusion Syndrome, which occurs when the blood supply of one twin moves to the other the shared placenta. The twin that loses the blood is called the donor twin. The twin that receives the blood is called the recipient twin.

Most of the time, the donor twin is smaller than the other twin at birth. The infant often has anemia, is dehydrated, and looks pale. The recipient twin is born larger, with redness too the skin, too much blood, and higher blood pressure.

The twin that gets too much blood may develop cardiac failure because of the high blood volume. The infant may also need medicine to strengthen heart function.

Crystal Springer was 22 weeks pregnant when she and husband Nick learned their twin unborn babies had the rare condition.

“They went right from the doctor’s office to Eastern Virginia Medical School to meet with Jena Miller, MD, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist.  She recommended a laser procedure – performed in the womb – to separate the blood vessels,” a local newspaper reports.

twins14It wasn’t without risk.  Doing nothing meant one or both of the twins would likely die, but the procedure wasn’t a guarantee, either.

“Every day, you live in fear,” said Springer, who said Dr. Miller was up front and honest about the risks.

“We could lose one or both of them during the procedure,” Springer recalled. “They could have still been premature and there were concerns about brain damage and heart problems as a result of the condition.”

The operation was performed on December 9, 2013 and on February 21, Ella and Anna were born – just 32 weeks old.

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After six weeks in the Special Care Nursery at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, they finally went home and are doing well.