Passing general reproduction talking fetotomy…

The tools for fetotomy

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….

Sheep scanning, and a lump…

Sheep pregnancy ultrasound scan of fetus

One of the reasons I love this university is how practical it is, and how you are pushed to think for yourself. We were left with a bull calf with a large lump on its neck and told to come up with a diagnosis in diseases of ruminants this morning.

This was a very large lump almost the size of a basketball hanging below the jaw on the right side. Now when dealing with lumps it is important to consider the location in relation to the structures that anatomically occur in that area. Then it is how the lump feels, and what it is attached to. Considering what diseases can affect that area of the body. Sometimes it is worth looking at a ultrasound scan of the lump, or taking a biopsy from it to examine in pathology.

The lump on this bull however is most likely from trauma and a massive haematoma which is like a bruise. All this blood had collected inside a capsule under the skin.

The afternoon we headed out to the farm for a reproduction practical – it is always interesting on these trips as we rarely know where we are going or what we are going to be doing. When we got there we found that we were ultrasounding sheep and goats for the diagnosis of pregnancy.

We ended up on a farm with a large number of sheep and goats, we set up the ultrasound machine and got started. Apparently once we are qualified we don’t get the time to play with ultrasounding fetuses and have to decide within seconds whether the animal is pregnant or not. Today however we had the time to look properly, and attempt to find the different parts of the fetus. It was actually even possible to find the heartbeat of the fetus on the ultrasound along with the different organs.

Normally though when ultrasounding for pregnancy we take any sign of pregnancy as a positive pregnancy – this can be the cotyledons (attachment of placenta to uterus), the amniotic sac, or part of the fetus. Once we see this we mark the animal as pregnant and move onto the next, usually this occurs at the same time as milking to reduce any stress to the animal.

Sheep pregnancy ultrasound scan of fetus

The image above is of the fetus of a goat inside its mother who is very pregnant.