Paralysis of the preterm rabbit fetus inhibits the pulmonary uptake of intraamniotic iron dextran


      OBJECTIVE: Whether fetal breathing movements or gasping result in the movement of amniotic fluid substances into the distal airways remains controversial. We evaluated the effect of paralysis of the preterm rabbit fetus on the pulmonary distribution of iron dextran. STUDY DESIGN: Laparotomy was performed on 10 New Zealand White rabbits of 25 days' gestation (term 31 days) under general anesthesia. Fetuses in one uterine horn were given an intramuscular injection of pancuronium (1.5 mg/kg) and fetuses in the other horn were given an equal volume of normal saline solution as controls. A 1 ml volume of iron dextran (100 mg/ml) was injected into the amniotic sac of all fetuses. The laparotomy was closed, and 20 to 24 hours later the fetuses were removed by hysterotomy and assessed for paralysis. Necropsy was performed. Lungs were stained with prussian blue and evaluated histologically for the presence of iron. RESULTS: A total of 92 pups were delivered (49 given pancuronium, 43 given normal saline solution), of which 64 were born alive. There were no differences between groups for live births (31 pancuronium, 33 normal saline solution), pup body weight, or lung weight. Pups given normal saline solution demonstrated more breathing motions, spontaneous movement, and brown (color of iron dextran) stomach contents than did the pups given pancuronium (p  < 0.001). At necropsy a greater number of control pups (31/33) had brown lungs grossly compared with pups given pancuronium (2/31, p < 0.001). Lung histologic examination showed that more control pups (29/29) had iron in the trachea and main bronchi compared with pancuronium pups (0/27, p < 0.001), and more control pups (29/29) had iron in the distal lung airways compared with pancuronium pups (0/27, p < 0.001). With use of the Optimas Image Analysis System, iron in the lungs of control pups was found to be equally distributed between right versus left lungs, upper half versus lower half lungs, and anterior versus posterior lung sections. More iron was identified in the central airways than in the periphery (p < 0.001). CONCLUSION: We conclude that paralysis prevents the uptake of iron dextran into the main and distal airways of the rabbit fetus. Although lung fluid production results in a net efflux of fluid, we speculate that fetal breathing movements can result in the movement of fluid into distal airways and potentially provide fetal therapy.(Am J Obstet Gynecol 1997;177:42-9.) Key words: Rabbit, fetus, lung, breathing, amniotic fluid
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