kids

What we know about the controversial surgery that left Jimmy Giggle's twin son on a ventilator.

Popular children’s entertainer and host of the ABC’s Giggle and Hoot Jimmy Rees, a.k.a Jimmy Giggle, this week withdrew from Dancing With The Stars, after his seven-week-old son Mack faced complications following a common medical procedure.

Rees and wife Tori welcomed twin boys Mack and Vinny in early February, just weeks before Dancing With The Stars began. The couple also have a three-year-old son named Lenny.

On Monday, Rees announced that he was withdrawing from performing so he can be with his family, after a “main blood vessel” was cut during a routine procedure on Mack last week, forcing the infant to be on a ventilator in hospital.

What was the procedure performed?

From the information provided by the couple in social media posts, the procedure Mack probably had is known as a ‘frenectomy‘. It is usually performed when a patient is ‘tongue-tied’; a condition which the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) describes as “when the thin membrane under the baby’s tongue (called the lingual frenulum) restricts the movement of the tongue.”

WATCH: Jimmy Rees talks about needing to be with his family. Post continues after.

The ABA further explains, “In some cases the tongue is not free or mobile enough for the baby to attach properly to the breast”, which is the main reason why a frenectomy is suggested as a treatment.

Being tongue-tied can also result in issues affecting speech as a child develops.

The ABA also reports that the condition occurs in 4-11 per cent of newborns and is more common in males. A tongue tied baby cannot remove milk from the breast effectively enough to always obtain sufficient nourishment, and its poor sucking motion can cause trauma to the breast nipple.

ADVERTISEMENT

What’s the controversy about a frenectomy procedure?

The procedure is a topic of much debate amongst professionals because some see that it’s become over-used, and in the wrong situations.

A study reported in the Medical Journal of Australia (the MJA) found a 420 per cent increase in Medicare funded frenectomies over the past decade.

The concern about the procedure’s increasing popularity comes as the procedure is now commonly being performed by dentists, using scissors, or surgical lasers, and not under general anaesthetic.

The MJA also noted, “There is little consensus among health professionals about how tongue-ties should be managed, and little reliable evidence for the benefits of frenotomy.”

“There’s a clear pattern of over-treatment,” Dr Pamela Douglas, one of the lead researchers on the study, told Mamamia.

“Babies are being referred for the treatment for any issue associated with feeding, not just the condition of classic tongue tie, which does absolutely need addressing with this procedure.

“Our concern is that in ten or twenty years, people will look back horrified at what we’ve unnecessarily been subjecting babies who do not have the tongue tie condition, to.”

There was also mention in the study that some dentists do not claim the procedure on Medicare, which leads the study’s researchers “to question whether this surgical management approach is supported by sufficient evidence.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The ABA suggests that parents should see a lactation consultant if they have any breastfeeding concerns, before a procedure is considered.

The other concern, especially amongst parents, is that frenectomies are high-risk.

Melbourne general practitioner, lactation consultant and researcher Dr Lisa Amir, who has performed the procedure thousands of times over the past 30 years, told Mamamia that it is uncommon to have complications with a frenectomy.

“In general, what we do is there’s just a thin membrane under the tongue and it’s interfering with the baby being able to protrude their tongue, and attach to the breast, and it’s just a thin membrane, then we just snip it with a pair of scissors.

“It’s something personally I’ve been doing it for 30 years, and usually there’s no bleeding or just a couple of drops. Families need to be informed that there’s a possibility of bleeding or infection, but I’ve never seen a problem with infection.”

Dr Amir said she has only ever seen bleeding in a couple of patients, for five to 10 minutes.

“Mostly there’s just a drop of blood. And I’ve never had anyone who needed to be transferred to hospital. We’re just cutting a very thin piece of skin, that membrane, so we’re not going near any blood vessels.”

It should be noted that in the Rees family’s case, the doctor performing the procedure accidentally cut a major blood vessel, according to their Instagram posts.

ADVERTISEMENT

The entertainer’s official Facebook page explained on 5th April, “Mack was taken to hospital last night due to complications following a routine procedure.

“Mack is currently under care at Randwick Hospital, where the ICU staff are monitoring the situation. Mack is in a stable condition, and at this time there is no cause for immediate alarm.”

How is little Mack now?

Rees posted a statement to his Facebook page on 9th April, announcing that “Mack is doing great.” And on Instagram, he posted a photo of himself with Tori and the twins, writing, “A time we will never be able to erase. Thanking the wonderful doctors and nurses at both Gosford Hospital and Sydney Children’s.

“Thank you all for your well wishes. Daddy loves you little Mack.”

On 10th April, Rees updated Instagram to reveal that Mack is now home. “Mack is out of hospital and home, continuing his recovery, still has a very sore mouth but he is getting there,” he wrote.

“Wrapping him in cotton wool for a while now, the precious little fella.”

Pregnant? Or planning? Sign up to our Before The Bump newsletter for the best stories and advice from women who’ve been there.

00:00 / ???