The use of fetoscopy was first developed in the 1990s. The process involves ultrasound-guided placement of a stethoscope – a small, fiber optic instrument – in the uterus to see the fetus and the placenta.
Fetoscopy as a surgical procedure can treat various fetal conditions including congenital diaphragmatic hernia and bladder outlet obstruction. Its most common use is the treatment of a rare condition, Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS).
The condition of TTTS occurs when identical twins share a placenta with blood vessel connections that cause blood to flow unevenly between the two fetuses. According to the article, “Caught on Camera” by attorney Jeffrey B. Killino, one of the fetuses develops a small amniotic sac while the other sac becomes too large. Laser fetoscopy allows the laser to break up and collapse these blood vessel connections. Reportedly, if the condition is not treated, both of the fetuses can die. TTTS occurs in approximately 1 in 2,500 pregnancies. It is expected that there will be a rise in TTTS occurrences because of the increase in fertility-assisted pregnancies.