Plasma catecholamine levels increase dramatically at birth. To determine the contribution of adrenal catecholamine secretion to the surge in catecholamines at birth and the role in newborn adaptation, we performed surgical adrenalectomy or sham operation on near-term ovine fetuses. After recovery in utero, the animals were delivered and supported by mechanical ventilation. Plasma catecholamine levels, heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac output, pulmonary function, surfactant secretion, and release of free fatty acids (FFA) and glucose were compared in control and adrenalectomized animals. Plasma epinephrine increased rapidly at birth in controls but was undetectable in adrenalectomized animals. Norepinephrine levels were not statistically different. Heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac output and contractility increased abruptly after cord cutting in controls but did not increase in adrenalectomized animals. Lung compliance, pulmonary function, surfactant pool size, glucose and FFA levels were significantly decreased in adrenalectomized animals. These results suggest that adrenal epinephrine secretion is vital to many of the adaptive events at birth.
J Padbury, Y Agata, J Ludlow, M Ikegami, B Baylen, J Humme