Doctors perform noninvasive treatment for fetal twin condition

By AuntMinnieEurope.com staff writers

November 5, 2021 -- Doctors at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea hospital in the U.K. say they have completed a procedure to safely treat twins in the womb with a rare condition caused by shared blood vessels using high-intensity focused ultrasound.

The procedure is part of a years-long research effort led by Dr. Christoph Lees from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Imperial College London to investigate new treatments for twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, which occurs in 10% to 15% of identical twins. The condition occurs in identical twins who share a placenta when blood flow sharing between babies is unbalanced.

Conventional treatments include inserting a laser fiber into the womb and amniotic fluid surrounding the twins to block blood flow in shared blood vessels on the surface of the placenta, an invasive and potentially risky procedure.

Ultrasound image of shared placenta with a blood vessel linking the two circulations shown in color using low-flow Doppler
Ultrasound image of shared placenta with a blood vessel linking the two circulations shown in color using low-flow Doppler. Image courtesy of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

The researchers used Doppler ultrasound for the new, experimental treatment method. Here, high-intensity focused ultrasound energy heats blood vessels precisely and blocks blood flow. This allows the blood flow between the twins to become rebalanced.

Lees and colleagues said this is the first step in their effort, which will need many more volunteers who have twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.


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