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Pediatr Res. 2005 Sep;58(3):510-5.

Alterations in fetal kidney development and elevations in arterial blood pressure in young adult sheep after clinical doses of antenatal glucocorticoids.

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Center for Research in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA.


Epidemiologic studies have yielded controversial information regarding an association between antenatal steroid administration and elevations in arterial blood pressure (BP). The aim of the study was to determine whether antenatal administration of a clinically relevant dose of steroids at a time when fetal nephrogenesis is at its highest results in abnormal kidney development and adult hypertension. Pregnant sheep were treated with either vehicle or betamethasone. Maternal injections were given 24 h apart at 80 d of gestational age (dGA; 0.55 of gestation). Animals were studied either as fetuses or as immature adults. Fetuses were delivered by cesarean section at 135 dGA. Adults were studied at 6 mo of age. Betamethasone administration did not induce premature labor or intrauterine growth restriction. In the betamethasone-exposed group, we found at 135 dGA a 25.5% decrease in the number of glomeruli with no differences in fetal kidney weight. In adults, mean, systolic, and diastolic arterial BPs were significantly higher, whereas there were no significant differences in heart rate over the same study period. The major finding of this study is that a single course of antenatal steroids alters renal development and is associated with elevations in arterial BP in lambs at 6 mo of age. We conclude that antenatal glucocorticoid administration under the National Institutes of Health consensus guidelines may alter human fetal renal development.

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