These studies determined the effects of fetal treatment with betamethasone alone, or in combination with thyroid hormone (thyroxine; T4), on postnatal renal and endocrine adaptations in preterm newborn lambs. Ovine fetuses (126 d of gestation; term = 150 d) received single, ultrasound-guided intramuscular injections of saline, 0.5 mg/kg betamethasone (Celestone Soluspan, or 0.5 mg/kg betamethasone plus 60 micrograms/kg T4. After 48 h, lambs were delivered, treated with surfactant (Survanta, 100 mg/kg), and ventilated for 3 h. Due to maintained urine flow in the betamethasone-treated animals and a significant decrease in the saline group, betamethasone versus saline urine flow values (0.11 +/- 0.03 versus 0.03 +/- 0.004 mL.min-1.kg-1) were significantly elevated by the end of studies. GFR (1.5 +/- 0.3 versus 0.8 +/- 0.2 mL.min-1.kg-1) and mean blood pressure (61 +/- 4 versus 42 +/- 3 mm Hg) values also were higher in the betamethasone-treated animals. Although renal blood flow, renal plasma flow, and fractional sodium excretion rates did not differ, betamethasone versus saline values for the filtration fraction (11.9 +/- 1.5 versus 7.4 +/- 1.5%) and total sodium reabsorption (196 +/- 38 versus 81 +/- 16 microEq.min-1.kg-1) were increased. Betamethasone versus saline treatment also was associated with significant reductions in plasma angiotensin II (125 +/- 23 versus 550 +/- 140 pg/mL) and AVP (116 +/- 19 versus 230 +/- 77 pg/mL) levels. Overall, the effects of combined betamethasone + T4 treatment were similar to the effects of betamethasone alone.
Conclusions: 1) fetal betamethasone injection 48 h before delivery stabilizes GFR and significantly alters endocrine function in preterm newborn lambs, and 2) the addition of T4 does not augment betamethasone-induced renal and endocrine responses.