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J Dev Physiol. 1991 Jun;15(6):309-23.

Effects of reducing uterine blood flow on fetal blood flow distribution and oxygen delivery.

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Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco 94143.


We examined the effect of graded reduction in uterine blood flow on distribution of cardiac output and oxygen delivery to fetal organs and venous blood flow patterns in 9 fetal sheep using the radionuclide-labeled microsphere technique. We reduced uterine blood flow in two steps, decreasing fetal oxygen delivery to 70% and 50% of normal, and compared the results with those from a similar study from our laboratory on graded umbilical cord compression. With 50% reduction in fetal oxygen delivery, blood flow and the fraction of the cardiac output distributed to the brain, heart, and adrenal gland increased and that to the lungs, carcass, skin, and scalp decreased. Oxygen delivery to the brain and myocardium was maintained, while that to the adrenal doubled, and that to the brain stem increased transiently. The decrease in oxygen delivery to both carcass and lower body segment correlated linearly with oxygen consumption (P less than 0.001). The proportion of umbilical venous blood passing through the ductus venosus increased from 44.6% to 53% (P less than 0.05). The preferential distribution of ductus venosus blood flow through the foramen ovale to the heart and brain increased, but that to the upper carcass decreased so that ductus venosus-derived blood flow to the upper body did not change. Hence, the oxygen delivered to the brain from the ductus venosus was maintained, and that to the heart increased 54% even though ductus venosus-derived oxygen delivery to the upper body fell 34%. Abdominal inferior vena caval blood flow and its contribution to cardiac output decreased, but the proportion of the abdominal inferior vena caval blood distributed through the foramen ovale also increased from 23.0 to 30.9%. However, the actual amount of inferior vena caval blood passing through the foramen ovale did not change. There was a 70% fall in oxygen delivery to the upper body segment from the inferior vena cava. A greater portion of superior vena caval blood was also shunted through the foramen ovale to the upper body, but the actual amounts of blood and oxygen delivered to the upper body from this source were small. Thus, graded reduction of uterine blood flow causes a redistribution of fetal oxygen delivery and of venous flow patterns, which is clearly different from that observed previously during graded umbilical cord occlusion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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