Few reports concerning intrauterine shunting are available. We investigated the impact of this method. In order to evaluate intrauterine shunting and the complication rate for different indications, we sent a questionnaire to all German-speaking level 3 centres. In four level 3 centres, 52 intrauterine catheters were inserted in 34 fetuses. The indications were uni- or bilateral hydrothorax in nine cases, cystic adenomatoid malformation of the lung in four cases, infravesical stenosis in 13 cases, and fetal ascites in eight cases. In three cases (6 per cent), difficulties occurred when the drain was inserted. In 15 cases (29 per cent), the function of the drain was reduced by dislocation or occlusion. The mortality rate caused by shunting was as high as eight per cent (four cases). The application of an intrauterine shunt currently represents a rarely performed ultrasound-guided therapeutic intervention in the fetus. In all cases, the indication for shunting is to avoid compression of normal tissue by cystic structures. A high complication rate restricts the application of drainage to selected cases.