Fetoscopic surgery for the treatment of congenital anomalies

J Pediatr Surg. 1992 Aug;27(8):950-4. doi: 10.1016/0022-3468(92)90538-i.


Fetoscopic techniques may broaden the indications for prenatal surgical intervention by obviating the risks of hysterotomy. For example, congenital obstructive uropathy has been treated by open vesicostomy and percutaneous catheter placement. The open approach is appropriate only for highly selected fetuses because of the inherent risks, whereas catheter drainage, though a safer procedure, is only useful for short-term therapy late in gestation due to frequent catheter obstruction and migration. The natural history of congenital obstructive uropathy mandates the need for improved therapy earlier in gestation, in order to salvage fetuses who would otherwise die of renal failure and pulmonary hypoplasia. We have developed a potential solution to this problem in which surgery is performed on the fetus without the risks of hysterotomy. Endoscopic fetal surgery uses a telescopic lens and operating instruments that are passed through small "ports" in the uterus. A bubble of CO2 is used to displace amniotic fluid and provides excellent visualization in a magnified field. This approach is considerably less invasive than open fetal surgery and, therefore, is less likely to provoke preterm labor. In this study we corrected obstructive uropathy in midgestation fetal lambs using a new, expandable wire mesh stent that is placed endoscopically and should provide more reliable bladder drainage than existing catheters. The fetoscopic surgical approach can potentially expand the indications for in utero surgery by decreasing fetal risks, facilitating intervention earlier in gestation, and reducing preterm labor. As a consequence, the potential now exists to correct non-life-threatening malformations in utero.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / surgery*
  • Fetoscopes
  • Fetus / surgery*
  • Hydronephrosis / etiology
  • Hydronephrosis / surgery*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sheep
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / methods
  • Urethral Obstruction / complications
  • Urethral Obstruction / surgery*