Laser Treatment of Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome

Twin Res Hum Genet. 2016 Jun;19(3):197-206. doi: 10.1017/thg.2016.28.


Objective: Laser ablation of all placental vascular anastomoses is the optimal treatment for twin-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). However, two important controversies are apparent in the literature: (a) a gap between concept and performance, and (b) controversy regarding whether all the anastomoses can be identified endoscopically and whether blind lasering of healthy placenta is justified. The purpose of this article is: (a) to address the potential source of the gap between concept and performance by analyzing the fundamental steps needed to successfully accomplish the surgery, and (b) to discuss the resulting competency benchmarks reported with the different surgical techniques.

Materials and methods: Laser surgery for TTTS can be broken down into two fundamental steps: (1) endoscopic identification of the placental vascular anastomoses, (2) laser ablation of the anastomoses. The two steps are not synonymous: (a) regarding the endoscopic identification of the anastomoses, the non-selective technique is based upon lasering all vessels crossing the dividing membrane, whether anastomotic or not. The selective technique identifies and lasers only placental vascular anastomoses. The Solomon technique is based on the theory that not all anastomoses are endoscopically visible and thus involves lasering healthy areas of the placenta between lasered anastomoses, (b) regarding the actual laser ablation of the anastomoses, successful completion of the surgery (i.e., lasering all the anastomoses) can be measured by the rate of persistent or reverse TTTS (PRTTTS) and how often a selective technique can be achieved. Articles representing the different techniques are discussed.

Results: The non-selective technique is associated with the lowest double survival rate (35%), compared with 60-75% of the Solomon or the Quintero selective techniques. The Solomon technique is associated with a 20% rate of residual patent placental vascular anastomoses, compared to 3.5-5% for the selective technique (p < .05). Both the Solomon and the selective technique are associated with a 1% risk of PRTTTS. Adequate placental assessment is highest with the selective technique (99%) compared with the Solomon (80%) or the 'standard' (60%) techniques (p < .05). A surgical performance index is proposed.

Conclusion: The Quintero selective technique was associated with the highest rate of successful ablation and lowest rate of PRTTTS. The Solomon technique represents a historical backward movement in the identification of placental vascular anastomoses and is associated with higher rate of residual patent vascular communications. The reported outcomes of the Quintero selective technique do not lend support to the existence of invisible anastomoses or justify lasering healthy placental tissue.

Keywords: TTTS; fetal therapy; laser therapy; twin–twin transfusion syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Arteriovenous Anastomosis / physiopathology
  • Arteriovenous Anastomosis / surgery*
  • Female
  • Fetofetal Transfusion / physiopathology
  • Fetofetal Transfusion / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Laser Coagulation*
  • Placenta / blood supply
  • Placenta / physiopathology
  • Placenta / surgery*
  • Pregnancy
  • Survival Rate