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Mum of twins makes medical appeal

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A WIGAN woman who gave birth to twin boys has backed calls for a pioneering medical technique to be rolled out across the NHS.

Claire King was pregnant with twin boys when she was told she may have twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), a condition that affects identical twins who share a placenta.

The condition means one twin gets too little blood, is at risk of anaemia and fails to grow properly, while the other twin gets too much, which can strain the heart and cause it to fail.

Up to 80 per cent of babies die if TTTS is not treated.

Those who live can have heart or kidney problems, and about 15 per cent have serious neurological problems, such as cerebral palsy.

She was treated using the current conventional laser therapy, but after research into a new technique which significantly reduces the risk of complications by lasering minuscule blood vessels across the placenta that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Ms King and her partner Aaron Scott, underwent the conventional treatment 23 weeks into her pregnancy three years ago.

Ms King, a nurse who works in gynaecology, said: “I had a very vague knowledge of TTTS thanks to my work, but as we only look after women in the very early stages of pregnancy, I didn’t know too much.

“But you know, everyone knows someone with twins, and you don’t hear of these issues. You don’t ever think it’s going to happen to you.”

Both boys – Alexander and James – were eventually delivered at 28 weeks.

Ms King said: “It’s only looking back now hearing about other people who have not been so fortunate, so many people have lost one or both twins, that we realise how lucky we were.”

Currently, doctors seal off abnormal blood vessels they can see, but this still means there is a risk TTTS will come back due to tiny blood vessels remaining.

Another rare condition, twin anaemia/polycythemia syndrome (TAPS), can also form.

This is a very slow transfer of blood and leaves babies at risk of very premature delivery and significant risk of stroke.

The new Solomon technique involves lasering the surface of the placenta to capture as many of the problem blood vessels as possible.

Mark Kilby, professor of foetal medicine at the University of Birmingham and director of the foetal medical centre at Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, worked on the new research into the technique together with experts from five centres in Europe.

The study was not big enough to look at the effect on death rates of babies but did find that fewer babies suffered complications that could result in disability.

Some one per cent of the 137 women undergoing the Solomon technique suffered a recurrence of TTTS, compared with seven per cent of the 135 women who were treated with the more conventional lasering.

And only three per cent of women undergoing the Solomon technique developed TAPS, compared with 16 per cent of the women in the conventional treatment group.

Prof Kilby said: “Around Europe, around the world and within the UK, people are already adopting this new technique. It would be the recommendation following this study that this technique is used across the NHS.”

He said there were around five specialist units in England that could offer the technique to pregnant women, and he had used it for about around 50 pregnancies in the last year at Birmingham.”

 

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