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, 222 (2), 183.e1-183.e9

The Duration of Fetal Antenatal Steroid Exposure Determines the Durability of Preterm Ovine Lung Maturation


The Duration of Fetal Antenatal Steroid Exposure Determines the Durability of Preterm Ovine Lung Maturation

Matthew W Kemp et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol.


Background: Antenatal corticosteroids (ACS) are the standard of care for maturing the fetal lung and improving outcomes for preterm infants. Antenatal corticosteroid dosing remains nonoptimized, and there is little understanding of how different treatment-to-delivery intervals may affect treatment efficacy. The durability of a lung maturational response is important because the majority of women treated with antenatal corticosteroids do not deliver within the widely accepted 1- to 7-day window of treatment efficacy.

Objective: We used a sheep model to test the duration of fetal exposures for efficacy at delivery intervals from 1 to 10 days.

Materials and methods: For infusion studies, ewes with single fetuses were randomized to receive an intravenous bolus and maintenance infusion of betamethasone phosphate to target 1-4 ng/mL fetal plasma betamethasone for 36 hours, with delivery at 2, 4 ,or 7 days posttreatment or sterile saline solution as control. Animals receiving the clinical treatment were randomised to receive either a single injection of 0.25 mg/kg with a 1:1 mixture of betamethasone phosphate + betamethasone acetate with delivery at either 1 or 7 days posttreatment, or 2 treatments of 0.25 mg/kg betamethasone phosphate + betamethasone acetate spaced at 24 hours (giving ∼48 hours of fetal steroid exposure) with delivery at 2, 5, 7, or 10 days posttreatment. Negative control animals were treated with saline solution. All lambs were delivered at 121 ± 3 days gestational age and ventilated for 30 minutes to assess lung function.

Results: Preterm lambs delivered at 1 or 2 days post-antenatal corticosteroid treatment had significant improvements in lung maturation for both intravenous and single-dose intramuscular treatments. After 2 days, the efficacy of 36-hour betamethasone phosphate infusions was lost. The single dose of 1:1 betamethasone phosphate + betamethasone acetate also was ineffective at 7 days. In contrast, animals treated with 2 doses had significant improvements in lung maturation at 2, 5, and 7 days, with treatment efficacy reduced by 10 days.

Conclusion: In preterm lambs, the durability of antenatal corticosteroids treatment depends on the duration of fetal exposure and is independent of the intravenous or intramuscular maternal route of administration. For acute 24- to 48-hour posttreatment deliveries, a 24-hour fetal antenatal corticosteroids exposure was sufficient for lung maturation. A fetal exposure duration of at least 48 hours was necessary to maintain long-term treatment durability. A single-dose ACS treatment should be sufficient for women delivering within <48 hours of antenatal corticosteroids treatment.

Keywords: betamethasone; dose; fetus; glucocorticoid; lung maturation; pharmacokinetics; preterm birth; sheep.

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