There are times when as a vet student I am pretty horrified, and one of the things that has never sat quite right with me is fetotomy (the cutting up of a dead fetus to remove it from mom). So in today’s exam for general reproduction and obstetrics I managed to get this as a question (and I also managed to pass the exam).
For me I am in veterinary school to learn how to save animals, as I believe I can make a difference. So learning how to cut them up is a bit of a bummer as far as I am concerned – though it often does server the useful purpose of saving moms life.
Now the basic rule with a fetotomy is that it is done only if the fetus is dead – if the fetus is alive then it is indication for a caesarean section instead. This is more my style personally as it is surgical and it means that we have the chance of having two living animals at the end.
However when the fetus is dead it has to come out, its generally dead because it couldn’t come out naturally (dystocia) so now its dead there are three possibilities. The first is that the animals owner didn’t call the vet soon enough so it died from something correctable by manual manipulation and then comes out easily. The second is that it was not possible to deliver naturally even with manual manipulation (it was deformed, too big etc). And the third is that it was a death in the uterus (like a miscarriage) and the owner didn’t notice until there were clinical signs from where it is decomposing.
The first case is self explanatory – a lot of problems with bad positioning can be fixed with some manual manipulation – or worst case a caesarean section by a vet.
The second case is the fetotomy to remove the fetus from the uterus – this is done using a fetotome like in the picture which is basically a metal tube that has a loop of cutting wire saw passed through so that it can be placed exactly where you want to cut. Now this in itself is a artform as there are different techniques for cutting the fetus depending on the problem with the position. For my exam I was talking about head problems, and so the cut made here would go across the neck and behind the opposite shoulder to hopefully allow the fetus to be removed in 2 parts.
The third case is called a sub-cutaneous fetotomy = this is often because the decomposition of the fetus allows you to easily remove the bones from within the fetus so it just becomes a sack of tissue. Apparently this also smells really bad and is pretty much the stuff of nightmare.
Seems fifth year is the really gruesome one….