CHICAGO, Ill. (2/13/1997) -- A condition once considered hopeless for 6,000 identical twin babies eachyear in the United States is now being treated with a new, pioneering lasersurgical procedure developed by Dr. Julian E. De Lia, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Universityof Illinois at Chicago Medical Center.
The condition, twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, occurs when identicaltwins share a single placenta, with blood vessel connections allowingpassage of blood from one twin into the other. In severe cases, the"donor" twin becomes very anemic and the "recipient" twin becomesoverloaded with fluid and develops heart failure. Without treatment, themost likely outcome is death of one or both twins. Or, if the twinssurvive, birth defects or cerebral palsy can result.
De Lia is one of only a handful of surgeons around the world who performthis procedure, with patients coming to him from 20 states and Canada. Hesaw his first case of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome in 1983 at theUniversity of Utah Medical Center. Over the next several years, he didresearch and developed an in-utero laser surgical technique that he beganusing in 1988.
In the procedure, the mother is given anesthesia and a thin,telescope-like device called a fetoscope is inserted into the abdomenthrough a small incision. The placental vessels connecting the twins canbe seen through the fetoscope. De Lia then fires a surgical laser at thevessels through the fetoscope to seal or cauterize the connecting vessels.The procedure takes only 30 to 45 minutes.
De Lia has performed about 70 of the operations, including seven since hecame to the UIC Medical Center last September. In about 75 to 80 percentof the cases at least one twin survived, and in 65 to 70 percent both twinssurvived, with neurological damage occurring in less than 5 percent of thebabies and with no ill effects on the mothers.
"Twins are a special blessing to most people, and it's a double tragedyif they end up losing both children," says De Lia. "So for me, it's verygratifying to save these lives.
"I've come up with something that, a few years ago, did not exist inmedicine. Now that we're have perfected this procedure, I face thechallenges of teaching others how to perform the surgery and disseminatinginformation to parents and the medical community about its availability."
(Editors: For more information, call Danny Chun, (312) 996-2269. Internet:firstname.lastname@example.org)
Danny Chun (email@example.com)Media Relations/University of Illinois at ChicagoColleges of Medicine, Nursing, DentistryPH: 312-996-2269 FAX: 312-996-3754Office of Public Affairs (M/C 288)601 South Morgan StreetChicago, IL 60607
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