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Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Sep;40(3):319-24. doi: 10.1002/uog.11122.

Radiofrequency ablation vs bipolar umbilical cord coagulation in the management of complicated monochorionic pregnancies.

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Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



The application of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) termination procedures to complicated cases involving monochorionic twins offers the potential of a less invasive option when compared to endoscopic techniques. The purpose of this study was to compare outcomes between these two techniques.


A retrospective review was undertaken of all cases of complicated monochorionic twin gestations treated at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia from July 1996 to December 2010. Cases were identified from the fetal treatment database and data extracted in a uniform fashion from the patients' charts.


A total of 149 cases were identified with procedures performed on 146. Indications for selective termination of one fetus were twin reversed arterial perfusion sequence in 53, severe twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome in 43, discordance for fetal anomalies in 26 and selective intrauterine growth restriction in 24. Eighty-eight cases were managed with bipolar cord coagulation (BCC) and 58 with RFA. The procedures in all cases were technically successful in achieving selective termination. The mean gestational age at the time of the procedure was 20.9 ± 2.7 weeks in the BCC group vs 20.2 ± 2.2 weeks in the RFA group (P = 0.1). The median gestational age at delivery was 34.7 (interquartile range (IQR), 29.2-38.6) weeks for the BCC group vs 33.0 (IQR, 23.4-38.9) weeks in the RFA group (P = 0.073). Mean birth weight did not differ between the two groups. The procedure-to-delivery time was 87.1 ± 42.1 days for the BCC group vs 73.8 ± 47.2 days for the RFA group (P = 0.1). Overall survival was 85.2% in the BCC group vs 70.7% in the RFA group (P = 0.014). This was attributed primarily to a survival rate of 10.5% in the RFA group compared with 31.6% in the BCC group for cases where delivery occurred before 28 weeks' gestation (P = 0.01). Premature rupture of the membranes occurred in 27.3% in the BCC group vs 13.7% in the RFA group (P = 0.05). Preterm labor was more common in the BCC group than in the RFA group (22.4 vs 7%, respectively; P = 0.009).


Despite the smaller caliber of the instrument, RFA is not associated with a decrease in the overall complication rate for selective termination procedures. The technique used for selective termination should still be determined by technical considerations but patients should be informed of the survival rate associated with each technique.

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