Saving babies inside the womb

September 29, 2010

Lisa Davis almost lost her twin girls two times, having two fetal surgeries in one pregnancy.

"I almost didn't have them...twice," Davis told Ivanhoe.

Davis developed Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome just months into her pregnancy. That's when one identical twin gives too much blood to the other and doesn't get enough blood back.

"If she chose to do nothing, she would lose the pregnancy with a 90 to 95 percent chance of loss," Ramen Chmait, M.D., from Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Chmait is one of the few who can separate those blood vessels by using a laser. The twins no longer shared blood flow, and the surgery was a success.

"One minute, we were ecstatic, and the next minute we were, 'Oh my Gosh,'" Davis said.

Doctor Chmait then found a blood vessel from the placenta trapped between the fetus and the opening of the birth canal. It's called vasa previa and occurs in just one out of every 3,000 births.

"If the door opens, the blood vessel will burst, and the baby will have a high rate of either bleeding out or dying," Dr. Chmait explained.

Just like the first surgery, he lasered the vessels shut and delivered the twins six weeks early.

"I remember very well," Davis recalled. "He came up to me, held my hand, and said, 'You did it, Lisa.'"

This surgery has been performed only a handful of times around the world. The twins have no signs of the syndrome or of the two surgeries they underwent in the womb.

Terri Maitino
Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center
(323) 361-6074

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