Doctor saves twins facing life-threatening abnormality

February 4, 2011 3:37:14 PM PST
Identical twins and other multiple births hold a special wonder for many especially many, expecting parents. With the rise fertility drugs and more and more women having children past their 30's many more women are having twins.

Families can go through terror during pregnancies when a problem suddenly appears.

Imagine the pregnant woman whose twin fetuses are developing normally, until suddenly one is taking the blood from the other. Their lives are threatened and it's a rare disorder that can affect identical twins before they're even born.

Twin to twin transfusion syndrome happens when one of the fetuses suddenly starts taking blood from the other putting their lives in danger.

Identical twins girls, Kerri and Kara, are now seven years-old. Their new baby sisters, also identical twins, are now one month old.

Mom Kristy Letizia and her husband Matt think that the birth of their twin daughters Mattison and Morgan is miraculous.

Twenty-six weeks into Kristy's pregnancy, the babies were facing a possible death.

"I was scared to death, we were scared to death," said Letizia whose twins had developed twin to twin transfusion syndrome a life-threatening situation causing one twin to steal blood and nutrients from the other.

Just when things seemed like they could not get any worse the Letizias then faced another dilemma when life-saving surgery was ruled out by their specialists in Philadelphia.

"Twenty-six weeks is the cutoff date for having surgery, we were at that point and told they would not perform the surgery," said Letizia.

"These babies at this point were in danger of dying," said Dr. David Gonzalez, Letizia's Hi Risk Specialist OB-GYN.

Dr. Gonzalez then referred the grief stricken parents to Dr. Ruben Quintero in Miami, Florida.

Dr. Quintero is recognized world-wide for his minimally invasive fetal surgeries.

With a camera, laser and specialized tools he developed, Dr. Quintero performed the surgery necessary to separate the abnormal connection between the twins.

"He found the blood vessel that they were sharing and lasered it while I got to watch the whole thing", said Letizia.

Eight weeks later, at thirty-four weeks of gestation, the two normal, healthy baby girls were born.

Although they weighed approximately four pounds, the only sign of the syndrome was the redder look of one baby - the one previously taking the blood.

"We demonstrated that surgery can be performed in these patients to seal off the vessels that communicate to babies and separate them completely in the uterus, therefore, stopping the disease altogether," said Dr. Quintero.

"We hope eventually to take the babies to meet the man that saved them," said Letizia.

Twin to Twin Syndrome occurs in about ten to fifteen perfect of identical twin births, somewhere around two thousand cases a year.

Some develop and resolve by themselves but in other cases, babies can grow disproportionately and even die. Opening the mother's abdomen is dangerous, so minimally invasive techniques are an astounding step forward.