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Pathology of twin placentas with special attention to monochorionic twin placentas
  1. P G J Nikkels1,
  2. K E A Hack2,
  3. M J C van Gemert3
  1. 1
    Department of Pathology, University Medical Center, Utrecht, Netherlands
  2. 2
    Department of Obstetrics, University Medical Center, Utrecht, Netherlands
  3. 3
    Laser Center, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  1. Dr P G J Nikkels, Department of Pathology, H04.312, University Medical Center Utrecht, Postbox 85500, 3508 GA Utrecht, The Netherlands; p.g.j.nikkels{at}


The risk of perinatal morbidity and mortality in twins is 3–7 times higher than in singletons. In comparison to dichorionic twins, monochorionic twins are at increased risk for perinatal mortality and serious morbidity. In both type of twins growth discordance can occur. Discordant growth of dichorionic twins could be due to differences in placental mass or differences in placental parenchymal lesions, whereas birth weight discordancy in monochorionic twins is caused by placental vascular anastomoses. In this review the different types of complications (acardiac twins, acute and chronic twin–twin transfusion syndrome) due to different combinations of vascular anastomoses are discussed in relation to a computer model developed to gain more insight into the development of the twin–twin transfusion syndrome. The angioarchitecture of 395 monochorionic twin placentas was studied. Mortality was highest in the absence of an arterio-arterial anastomosis (42%) and lowest in the presence of an arterio-arterial anastomosis (15%). If mortality occurred, pregnancies with double mortality usually had an arterio-arterial anastomosis. If pregnancies were complicated by one death, a veno-venous anastomosis is more likely to be present. In conclusion, monochorionic twin pregnancies are a high risk pregnancy with a high chance of both mortality and morbidity; placental characteristics are a major contributor to adverse outcome in these pregnancies.

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • Ethics approval: Ethics approval was obtained.