Objective: The neuropathologic mechanisms of the ovine fetal brain in response to several hours of sustained hypoxemia with variable degrees of metabolic acidemia was investigated in both the preterm and near-term ovine fetus.
Study design: Three groups of fetuses were studied in each of the near-term and midgestation groups: a hypoxic group, a control group, and an uninstrumented control group. Histopathologic studies were performed after a 40-hour recovery period after experimentation.
Results: Pathologic findings consisted of predominately white matter damage with some adjacent cortical necrosis but no selective neuronal injury. In the near-term group the hypoxia group fetuses demonstrated significantly higher white matter injury scores than did control group fetuses (p < 0.05). Periventricular white matter injury was the predominant pattern seen in the midgestation group.
Conclusions: In spite of normalization of biophysical and biochemical parameters after hypoxemia both midgestation and near-term fetuses sustained pathologic changes. Presence or extent of injury did not correlate with the degree of hypoxemia or metabolic acidosis achieved.