Effects of Asphyxia on the Fetal Lamb Brain

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Our purpose was to study the effect of fetal asphyxia on the release of hypoxanthine and xanthine in cerebrospinal fluid and on brain histologic characteristics.


In seven fetal lambs (3 to 5 days after surgery, gestational age 124.3 +/-2.6 days) asphyxia was induced by restriction of uterine blood flow.


Fetal pH and base excess were reduced to 6.99 +/-0.02 and -17.6 +/-0.9 mmol/L, respectively. Cerebral blood flow increased during asphyxia and returned to normal in the recovery phase. Maximum concentrations of cerebrospinal fluid hypoxanthine and xanthine were reached in the normoxemic recovery phase. This high level of substrates during normoxemia facilitates oxygen free radical formation and may thus aggravate postasphyctic brain damage. Histologic evaluation of the brain 3 days after the insult showed a variable degree of edema. Coagulative neuronal changes, characteristic of irreversible cell death, were only occasionally detected. These changes were most obvious in the Purkinje cells of the cerebellum.


Fetal asphyxia induced by uterine blood flow restriction is associated with high levels of cerebrospinal fluid hypoxanthine and xanthine in the recovery phase. Microscopically detectable brain damage, although not extensive, is mainly located in the cerebellum. (AM J OBSTET GYNECOL 1993;169:1493-501.)

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