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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1988 Dec;159(6):1353-60.

Atrial natriuretic factor, digoxin-like immunoreactive substance, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and plasma renin activity in human fetuses and their alteration by fetal disease.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City 52242.


We measured five hormones presumably involved in fetal homeostasis in specimens obtained by cordocentesis for clinical indications from 106 fetuses. Norms for atrial natriuretic factor, digoxin-like immunoreactive substance, plasma renin activity, norepinephrine, and epinephrine were derived from fetuses ultimately shown to be free of detectable abnormality. Atrial natriuretic factor, digoxin-like immunoreactive substance, and plasma renin activity were unrelated to umbilical vessel source or gestational age. Digoxin-like immunoreactive substance was directly related to PCO2 (r = 0.63, p = 0.02). Digoxin-like immunoreactive substance level was elevated in all fetal disease states studied except isoimmunization. The level of atrial natriuretic factor was elevated in fetuses with immune hydrops (NS). Norepinephrine and epinephrine levels were higher in the umbilical artery than in the vein (p = 0.05 and 0.006, respectively). There was a significant correlation between norepinephrine and gestational age in normal fetuses (r = 0.7637, p less than 0.025) and between both catecholamines and many of the respiratory blood gas measurements, with pH and PCO2 being the major determinants. Most disease states were associated with an elevated norepinephrine concentration. There was a negative correlation between plasma renin activity and base deficit (p less than 0.0001). Plasma renin activity was elevated in fetuses with idiopathic growth retardation and nonimmune hydrops (p less than 0.05 for each). In summary, fetal homeostasis as reflected by these five hormones was altered by a variety of disorders. With these baseline values the effects of direct or indirect fetal therapy can begin to be studied.

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