Twin-twin transfusion syndrome: etiology, severity and rational management

M. J. van Gemert, A. Umur, J. G. Tijssen, M. G. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The twin-twin transfusion syndrome is a serious complication of monochorionic twin pregnancies. Partly as a result of an inadequate understanding of the pathophysiology of the syndrome, there is a lack of consensus in clinical management. We sought to review the available information on the etiology of twin-twin transfusion syndrome, to identify parameters that contribute to the severity of the syndrome, and propose a rational management plan based on pathophysiology, clinical presentation and the efficacy of therapies. We therefore amalgamated recent advances in twin-twin transfusion syndrome computer modelling and clinical studies, particularly on therapeutic outcomes. We found that the oligo-polyhydramnios sequence that defines twin-twin transfusion syndrome prenatally represents a wide continuum of severity in the imbalance between the fetoplacental circulations of both twins. In severe twin-twin transfusion syndrome cases, in which the circulatory imbalance deteriorates beyond fetal control, fetoscopic laser therapy of all anastomoses along the placental vascular equator is predicted to have significantly better survival rates and fewer neurological sequelae than amnioreduction. In contrast, mild twin-twin transfusion syndrome cases have better outcomes after one or at most a few amnioreductions than laser therapy, as a result of significantly fewer procedure-related risks. In conclusion, optimal individual therapy may possibly achieve an 85% survival rate in twin-twin transfusion syndrome, but requires advancement in non-invasive criteria that predict the severity of the syndrome. Identifying such criteria is a future challenge. For the interim, twin-twin transfusion syndrome diagnosed before 26 weeks' gestation has significantly better survival rates and fewer neurological sequelae after laser therapy than amnioreduction. Twin-twin transfusion syndrome diagnosed after 26 weeks can best be treated by amnioreduction, or delivery. Contrary to previous claims, fetoscopic laser therapy has outgrown its experimental status. Although improvements in technique and technology are likely, laser placental ablation has a firm scientific and clinical basis
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-206
JournalCurrent opinion in obstetrics & gynecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Cite this