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The effect of prolonged hypobaric hypoxia on growth of fetal sheep

journal contribution
posted on 1988-04-01, 00:00 authored by R Jacobs, J S Robinson, Julie Owens, J Falconer, M E Webster
The effect of prolonged hypobaric hypoxia on fetal sheep was studied. Pregnant ewes were subjected to an atmospheric pressure of 429 torr from 30 days to 135 days gestation (long-term study). Average fetal weight for the hypoxaemic group (3.35 +/- 0.53 kg; n = 4; mean +/- SD) was significantly lower than for the controls (4.23 +/- 0.29 kg; n = 7; P less than 0.05). A short-term study was undertaken with fetuses (n = 8) which were catheterized at 110 days gestation and whose dams were subjected to hypobaric hypoxia from 120 to 141 days gestation. The mean carotid PO2 of fetuses in the hypoxic group was 12.7 +/- 0.7 torr compared to 22.7 +/- 0.7 torr for the control group (n = 9; P less than 0.001) throughout the period of treatment. Fetal arterial oxygen content fell from 6.5 +/- 1.7 to 4.9 +/- 0.4 ml/dl (P less than 0.05), but rose to control values after 7 days due to an increase in fetal haemoglobin concentration (9.6 +/- 1.1 to 13.0 +/- 1.9 g/dl, P less than 0.001) and packed cell volume (33 +/- 3 to 45 +/- 4%, P less than 0.001). In the hypoxaemic fetuses, pH fell initially from 7.34 +/- 0.02 to 7.28 +/- 0.03 (P less than 0.05) and then recovered to 7.32 +/- 0.03 within 24 h. Mean fetal weight of the short-term hypoxic group was 3.46 +/- 0.72 kg compared to 4.15 +/- 0.51 for the control group (P less than 0.05). Both long- and short-term hypoxia produced a similar reduction in fetal body weight. The adrenal glands were significantly heavier in the hypoxic fetuses than in controls. Placental weight was not effected by hypoxia, but exposure from 30 days gestation reduced the average size of cotyledons (P less than 0.05). It is concluded that the fetal sheep increases its ability to acquire and transport oxygen in response to chronic hypoxia, but this compensation is not sufficient to prevent growth retardation or changes to the pattern of tissue growth.



Journal of developmental physiology






97 - 112


Oxford Business Group


London, Eng.





Publication classification

CN.1 Other journal article

Copyright notice

1988, Oxford Business Group