Repetitive prenatal glucocorticoids improve lung function and decrease growth in preterm lambs

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1997 Jul;156(1):178-84. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.156.1.9612036.


We evaluated the effects of multiple fetal exposures to glucocorticoids on postnatal lung function and growth. Ewes were randomized to receive 1 to 4 doses of 0.5 mg/kg betamethasone or saline placebo at 7 d intervals from 104 d to 118 d and at 124 d gestation. All lambs were delivered preterm at 125 d gestation, and postnatal lung function was evaluated. There were sequential improvements in compliance, ventilation efficiency, and lung volumes for two, three, and four doses of betamethasone. The maximal effect was a 150% increase in compliance and a 4-fold increase in lung volume after fetal exposure to four doses of betamethasone. However, birth weights decreased (15% after one dose, 19% after two doses, and 27% after three and four doses). There were no changes in lung to body weight ratios, lung dry to wet weight ratios, lung protein to body weight ratios, or lung hyaluronan content. Prenatal glucocorticoid exposure also altered postnatal cortisol, thyroid, and catecholamine plasma levels. Repetitive 7-d interval exposures of fetal lambs to glucocorticoids progressively enhanced postnatal lung function and resulted in growth and endocrine abnormalities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Betamethasone / pharmacology*
  • Betamethasone / therapeutic use
  • Birth Weight / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiration / drug effects*
  • Sheep


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Betamethasone