Prolonged mild hypoxia alters fetal sheep electrocorticogram activity

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Reproductive Sciences

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Objective:To assess the effects of prolonged mild hypoxemia on fetal brain electrocorticogram (ECoG) in late gestation.

Study Design:Fetal and maternal catheters were placed under general anesthesia and animals allocated at random to receive intratracheal maternal administration of either nitrogen (n = 8) or compressed air (n = 8). Five days after surgery (125 days' gestational age), nitrogen infusion was adjusted to reduce fetal brachial artery PO2 by 25%. The targeted decrease in fetal oxygenation was maintained for 5 days while fetal ECoG activity and fetal and maternal cardiovascular variables were continuously recorded. Data are presented as mean ± SEM and were analyzed by two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) or two-sample t test.

Results:Nitrogen infusion decreased fetal PO2 by 26% (20.5 ± 1.7 versus 14.3 ± 0.8) without changing fetal PCO2 or pH. Mild fetal hypoxemia was associated with fetal tachycardia and increased fetal blood pressure (P <.05). Fetal ECoG in hypoxic fetuses showed a significant decrease in the time spent in high voltage (HV) (P <.05) and an increase in the time spent in low voltage (LV) and in the number of low voltage events (P <.05). Also, a significant decrease in the proportion of 1-4 Hz and an increase in the proportion of 13-20 Hz frequencies was observed in LV events without a significant change in the frequency profile of HV events (P <.05).

Conclusion:Prolonged mild hypoxemia significantly altered fetal homeostasis as reflected by the sustained tachycardia and increased blood pressure. Fetal ECoG activity was affected significantly in a qualitatively and quantitative manner by mild prolonged hypoxema.