Cord Obstruction and Delayed Cord Clamping Do Not Affect Gut Function in Neonatal Piglets

Neonatology. 2024 Jun 28:1-10. doi: 10.1159/000539527. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: Birth-related obstruction of umbilical blood flow may induce hypoxic insults that affect postnatal organ adaptation. Using newborn cesarean-delivered pigs, we hypothesized that cord obstruction during delivery negatively affects physiological transition and gut maturation. Further, we investigated if delayed cord clamping (DCC) improves gut outcomes, including sensitivity to formula-induced necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)-like lesions.

Methods: In experiment 1, preterm (n = 24) and near-term (n = 29) piglets were subjected to umbilical cord obstruction (UCO, 5-7 min in utero), with corresponding pigs delivered without obstruction (CON, n = 17-22). Experiment 2 assessed preterm pigs subjected to delayed cord clamping (n = 30, 60 s) or immediate cord transection with umbilical cord milking (UCM, n = 34). Postnatal vital parameters were recorded, together with a series of gut parameters after 3 days of formula feeding.

Results: UCO induced respiratory-metabolic acidosis in near-term pigs at birth (pH 7.16 vs. 7.32, pCO2 12.5 vs. 9.2 kPa, lactate 5.2 vs. 2.5 mmol/L, p < 0.05). In preterm pigs, UCO increased failure of resuscitation and mortality shortly after birth (88 vs. 47%, p < 0.05). UCO did not affect gut permeability, transit time, macromolecule absorption, six digestive enzymes, or sensitivity to NEC-like lesions. In experiment 2, DCC improved neonatal hemodynamics (pH 7.28 vs. 7.20, pCO2 8.9 vs. 9.9 at 2 h, p < 0.05), with no effects on gut parameters.

Conclusion: UCO and DCC affect neonatal transition and hemodynamics, but not neonatal gut adaptation or sensitivity to NEC-like lesions. Our findings suggest that the immature newborn gut is highly resilient to transient birth-related changes in cord blood flow.

Keywords: Cesarean section; Hypoxia; Necrotizing enterocolitis; Premature infants; Umbilical cord clamping.