16 September 2020

Alyson Kirkland is mum to identical twins George and Archie. The five-year-olds from Lanarkshire are believed to be one of a handful of twins in Scotland to have had laser surgery for the condition when they were still in the womb.

TTTS is a rare, life-threatening condition affecting around 15% of identical twins who share a placenta. We fund research into the condition, and other areas affecting multiple births, at our Centre for Research and Clinical Excellence at St George’s Hospital in London.

Christopher and Alyson Kirkland with their identical twins George and Archie

Alyson said: “After getting over the shock of being told we were expecting twins we started to get excited and looked forward to meeting them.

“I was due to go to the 18-week scan on my own as my husband Christopher was working. But at the last minute he decided to come and surprised me at our local hospital in Motherwell.

“Thank goodness he did because that is when the sonographer noticed something was wrong and TTTS was suspected.”

In TTTS, part of the blood flow is diverted from one ‘donor’ twin to the ‘recipient’ twin. A lack of blood supply can affect the donor twin’s growth, so they are smaller than average with the larger ‘recipient’ twin suffering heart strain as it works harder to cope with the extra blood supply. The recipient twin then develops excess fluid to compensate for the excess blood.

Laser therapy can help, sealing off blood vessels and then draining excess fluid.

The couple were told things were serious and rushed to the fetal medicine unit at Glasgow Hospital where Dr Janice Gibson performed life-saving laser surgery, fusing blood vessels allowing the placenta to work as it should.

“When we arrived, what Dr Gibson explained to us was horrifying.

Without doing anything we could lose both babies. Even with the surgery there were risks. I’d read a bit about TTTS, but you just don’t think it will happen to you.

“Fortunately, it all worked perfectly. Just a couple of hours afterwards a scan showed both boys bladders were filling and emptying as they should.

“We went home and had a scan every single week afterwards, which was very reassuring.”

The boys both weighed almost 5lbs when they were born and spent a short time in hospital afterwards – George needed help with breathing.

Now they are full of life and Alyson says she feels very lucky. 

“Raising money for research in TTTS and other research projects is vital. We are so grateful for the care we received in the NHS, and Twins Trust has also been a great source of support,” said Alyson, who has fundraised for us.

We have a support network in Scotland.