Teela Wells was a busy mom, excited about the news that she was pregnant with twin boys when she learned fetal surgery would be needed to save the boys’ lives. The twins, Aiden and Adrian, had developed twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), a life-threatening condition that involves one baby receiving too much blood from the placenta, while the other does not receive enough. Without treatment many babies do not survive TTTS.
“Because Teela and the boys were regularly monitored throughout the pregnancy we discovered the TTTS early enough to perform a minimally invasive fetal surgery to separate the shared blood vessels, and correct the blood flow imbalance,” says Mike Vlastos, MD, the director of the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute.
During the fetal surgery, called fetoscopic laser photocoagulation, the fetal surgeon inserts a pencil-tip-sized telescope in the mother’s uterus and examines the entire placenta to find the crossing blood vessels. Once these are all mapped, a tiny laser fiber is inserted and laser energy is used to stop the blood flow between the twins. “Separating the twin blood flow is like functionally separating the placenta, allowing each twin to develop independently,” says Vlastos.
Three months after surgery Aiden and Adrian made their entrance to the world, and after a short stay in the level III NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at SSM St. Mary’s Health Center went home.
Now, four years later they are active boys who enjoy playing with their now eight-year-old big brother Travin. They are in pre-Kindergarten and love to play football and ride their bikes.
Since opening in 2009, the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute has performed 58 of these surgeries, and evaluated more than 100 sets of multiples for TTTS.