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Pediatr Res. 1995 Jun;37(6):707-13.

Repeated episodes of umbilical cord occlusion in fetal sheep lead to preferential damage to the striatum and sensitize the heart to further insults.

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Research Centre for Developmental Medicine and Biology, University of Auckland, New Zealand.


The effect of repeated episodes of asphyxia on the fetal cardiovascular system and CNS was examined. The umbilical cord was occluded for 5 min, four times, at 30-min intervals in 11 chronically instrumented fetal sheep (118-126 d). Fetal electrocorticogram (ECoG), cortical impedance, ECG, heart rate, and blood pressure were continuously recorded for 3 d, after which neuronal loss was determined histologically. Each occlusion resulted in fetal hypoxemia and bradycardia accompanied by increased T/QRS ratio. Progressively severe hypotension and lactic acidosis developed during successive occlusions. The ECoG was depressed and cortical impedance increased with each occlusion. During the final occlusion, blood pressure fell to 3.5 +/- 1 kPa and heart rate to 93 +/- 9 bpm, T/QRS ratio increased to 0.44 +/- 0.3, and lactate rose to 7.2 +/- 1.2 mM/L. Three animals died from cardiac fibrillation during recirculation after the third or fourth occlusion. After the asphyxial episodes, blood pressure and heart rate returned to normal, and the T wave was inverted for 310 +/- 155 min. Lactate returned to baseline within 24 h. The ECoG remained depressed for 90 +/- 35 min, and intermittent seizures developed at 3.3 +/- 1.4 h after the last occlusion. Neuronal loss was primarily found in the striatum. The extent of neuronal loss correlated with the degree of hypotension, increase in T/QRS ratio, duration of postasphyxial ECoG depression, and number of seizures. These results indicate that transient asphyxial episodes compromise the ability of the heart to tolerate additional insults and further suggest that neuronal loss is a consequence of cardiovascular compromise secondary to asphyxia.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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