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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1992 Dec;167(6):1756-9.

Increased lymphatic pumping ability in pregnant ewes.

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  • 1Division of Perinatal Biology, Loma Linda University, CA.



Daily the lymphatic system returns several liters of fluid to the systemic circulation. Unlike blood, lymph is pumped against a pressure gradient. Because vessels in the systemic circulation are hyporesponsive to vasoconstrictor hormones during pregnancy, we decided to assess whether lymphatic pumping ability was decreased during pregnancy.


Ten pregnant ewes were chronically catheterized in the left thoracic duct and jugular vein. Four days after surgery thoracic duct pumping ability was determined by measuring the lymph flow rate as a function of outflow pressure by varying the height at which lymph flow drains in an open-flow system.


Lymph flow was plotted against outflow pressure, and the value at which lymph flow decreases is defined as the "breaking point." The outflow pressure at which lymph flow equals zero is the "stopflow" pressure; this value defines the pumping ability. The pregnant ewes had a breaking point of -1 +/- 2.7 versus 14.4 +/- 3.0 mm Hg (mean +/- SD) for the nonpregnant sheep. Stopflow pressures were 62 +/- 7.3 versus 23.9 +/- 4.7 mm Hg (mean +/- SD) for the nonpregnant ewes (p < 0.05).


The ability of the lymphatic system to generate pressure is increased during pregnancy, but the breaking point is diminished. Alterations of lymphatic pumping ability could explain fluid retention under pathophysiologic conditions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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