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Fetal Procedure At Rocky Mountain Hospital For Children Successfully Saves Twins

By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4) - Friday was one for the books at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. For over a year, doctors have been prepping to perform a rare fetal procedure for a disease called Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. This week, two sets of twins were born at RMHC who received the procedure in-house. Health officials say all four babies are doing exceptionally well.

While TTTS is rare, it is a serious progressive disease of the placenta in which one identical twin "donates" blood to the other twin. If left untreated, nearly all cases of TTTS result in a loss of the entire pregnancy and all are at extremely high risk of brain damage.

"One baby is giving blood to the other baby and the space, the amniotic space they're in, is very tiny they're like wrapped in seran wrap and the other baby basically gets congestive heart failure and is in a very large space but both twins are equally at risk for not making it," said Doctor Steve Rothenberg.

Mark and Lindsey are the proud new parents of one set of twins born this week at RMHC. When they discovered their unborn twins had TTTS, they knew they had to act.

"It was scary. If we didn't have the surgery they had maybe a 10% chance of survival, so we knew it was something we had to do and then the chance of survival even with the surgery… the numbers were scary," said new mom Lindsey.

doctor twin to twin syndrome
(credit: CBS)

RMHC said it's thrilled to have this level of expertise now available in Denver for its TTTS patients. Though the Children's Hospital of Colorado has treated patients with TTTS, doctors at RMHC had to send patients to Seattle for the procedure.

"It's a really big deal and the exciting thing for us, we used to have to send these moms to Seattle to get this done and we've been very fortunate in that one of the world's experts, the maternal fetal medicine doctor in Seattle, is now working with us and coming here to help us do this so that the moms don't have to travel. They can stay here in this very safe environment without moving," said Rothenberg.

Experts say the procedure in itself is minimally invasive. It's done by scope through a small incision and works by separating the shared blood vessels on the placenta, which separates the babies' circulation.

For parents Lindsey and Mark, they say the experience was stressful but are grateful they didn't have to travel to Seattle. Above all, they're grateful for the newest addition to their family, twins Baxter and Shepard.

"We were really optimistic and hopeful that these guys would come through and they did," said Lindsey.

They each weighed in a little over four pounds and are recovering in NICU.

Jamie Leary reports on the CBS4 Morning News. Email her story ideas at and connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

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