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What Is Fetoscopy?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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A fetoscopy is a medical procedure designed to allow a doctor to see the developing fetus during pregnancy with the aid of a small instrument known as a fetoscope. This procedure may be used to diagnose, evaluate, or treat problems with the fetus and is generally performed after the 18th week of pregnancy. There are two different types of fetoscopy that may be utilized, depending on the individual situation. One procedure is performed on the outside of the abdomen, much like an ultrasound. The other type of fetoscopy requires that the fetoscope is inserted into the uterus, either through the abdomen or through the cervix.

An external fetoscopy requires the use of a type of fetoscope that resembles a stethoscope, except that it has a headpiece attached to it. This instrument is used on the abdomen in much the same way as a routine ultrasound. This procedure can be used any time after 18 weeks of gestation to monitor fetal heart tones. An external fetoscopy may also be utilized during labor to avoid the necessity of the mother being connected to a fetal monitor for the entire duration of the labor process. There are no risks associated with this type of procedure.

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An endoscopic fetoscopy uses a fiber-optic instrument that is inserted into the uterus through an incision in the abdomen or through the cervix. This type of fetoscopy may be used in order to allow the doctor to get a clear look at the fetus if problems are suspected or to obtain tissue samples from the fetus. Surgery can also be performed on the fetus using this procedure if it is deemed medically necessary. There is a small chance of developing serious complications as the result of this procedure, including fetal injury or death.

An endoscopic fetoscopy can be either an outpatient or an inpatient surgical procedure, depending on the individual situation. Anesthesia for the mother may be either local, regional, or general, depending on the goals of the procedure. In many cases, medications are used to temporarily lower the heart rate of the fetus in order to reduce the risks of fetal injury. Possible risks related to the use of this procedure include infection, premature labor, or fetal death. As this is considered a minimally invasive type of surgery, the risks of such complications are much lower for the mother and the fetus than if open surgery is performed.

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