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The University of Bristol’s Clinical Research and Imaging Centre (CRICBristol) and St Michael’s Hospital have revealed a two-year research project to identify the cardiac function of monochorionic twins with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) using ultrasound scanner.

Monochorionic twins are twins who share the same placenta and are currently enlisted as a much higher higher risk group of twins to be afflicted with TTTS than those with separate placentas.

TTTS is a morbid condition caused by the presence of unidirectional, intertwin, vascular anastomoses on the placenta causing a haemodynamic imbalance between the twins.

"We believe we need to change the way we monitor unborn monochorionic twins in order to improve the outcomes of these pregnancies."

Research team member Dr Sarah Newell said: “We believe we need to change the way we monitor unborn monochorionic twins in order to improve the outcomes of these pregnancies.

“Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome is a serious condition that requires surgery, whilst the unborn twins are still in uterus. It carries with it a high risk than one or both twins might not survive. The current way we monitor and predict outcomes does not sit with how the disease progresses, so we need to find a new way.”

She added: “Through this research we will establish improved scanning protocols and applications, leading to better, more precise treatment for these twins.”

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Funded by The Capella Foundation, the project will find out how the syndrome progresses and find ways to improve survival.

The research team will use the latest ultrasound imaging equipment, the Aplio 500 high-end ultrasound scanner from Toshiba Medical, to scan the hearts of unborn twins while they are still in the uterus.

The ultrasound scanner features high density architecture that provides the researchers with high-resolution and detailed clinical images.

It is also fitted with a range of powerful clinical tools to facilitate advanced visualisation, quantification and intervention for daily routines during this clinical research project.

Image: Monochorionic twins are more prone to be affected by TTTS. Photo: courtesy of University of Bristol.