Postnatal cardiovascular and metabolic responses to a single intramuscular dose of betamethasone in fetal sheep born prematurely by cesarean section

Pediatr Res. 1995 Nov;38(5):709-15. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199511000-00013.


Although the benefits of antenatal hormone treatment are well accepted, most studies have reported only pulmonary effects. There is evidence of beneficial cardiovascular and metabolic effects in studies using chronically catheterized animals; however because of the route of administration, the results are not directly applicable to clinical strategies. We previously demonstrated significant pulmonary effects in animals treated antenatally with a single, direct fetal, intramuscular injection of glucocorticoids. This study was performed to determine the effects of a single fetal injection of betamethasone (BETA) alone or in combination with thyroxine (T4) on cardiovascular and metabolic responses after preterm birth. Hemodynamic and metabolic responses at birth were determined in fetuses (126-d gestation; term = 150 d) treated with ultrasound-guided intramuscular injections of 0.5 mg/kg BETA (n = 7), BETA plus 60 g/kg T4 (n = 7), or saline (SAL, n = 9). After 48 h, lambs were delivered by cesarean section and studied for 3 h. BETA treatment increased mean arterial blood pressure [56 +/- 6 (SEM) versus 42 +/- 3 mm Hg], heart rate (152 +/- 5 versus 123 +/- 4 beats/min), and cardiac output (467 +/- 17 versus 349 +/- 36 mL/min/kg) versus SAL. Responses of BETA+T4-treated animals were not different from animals treated with BETA alone. Glucose and FFA were similar among all groups. The increase in catecholamine levels normally seen at birth was significantly attenuated in both the BETA and BETA+T4-treated animals. A single, intramuscular injection of glucocorticoids 48 h before delivery improves cardiovascular responses to preterm birth. This effect is not augmented by concomitant administration of T4.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Betamethasone / pharmacology*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular System / embryology
  • Cattle
  • Cesarean Section
  • Epinephrine / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Norepinephrine / blood
  • Pregnancy
  • Sheep / embryology
  • Thyroxine / pharmacology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Betamethasone
  • Thyroxine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine