To assess the role of the early postnatal surge in plasma thyroid hormone concentrations on cardiovascular and metabolic adaptations, we measured cardiac output, total oxygen consumption, and plasma triiodothyronine (T3) concentrations in three groups of lambs in the first 6 h after delivery. 15 fetal lambs were prepared at gestational ages of 128-129 d by placing catheters in the brachiocephalic artery, descending aorta, distal inferior vena cava, left atrium, and pulmonary artery so that measurements could be made soon after delivery. They were divided into three groups: Group I comprised five control animals; Group II consisted of five fetuses in which thyroidectomy was performed at surgery at 129 d gestation; and Group III consisted of five animals in which thyroidectomy was performed at term gestation during delivery by caesarian secton, prior to severing the umbilical cord. The lambs in Group I exhibited a rapid postnatal rise in T3 concentrations, similar to that described previously, reaching a peak value of about 5 ng/ml. Although the postnatal surge in T3 concentration was arrested in Group II and III animals, Group II had no detectable plasma T3, while the Group III animals had T3 concentrations of about 0.8 ng/ml, which were within the range previously reported for term lamb fetuses. The lambs in group II showed 40-50% lower left ventricular outputs (190 vs. 297 ml/kg per min), systemic blood flows (155 vs. 286 ml/kg per min), and oxygen consumptions (9.8 vs. 20.2 ml/kg per min) as compared with Group I animals over the entire 6-h period. The lambs in Group II also had significantly lower heart rates (131 vs. 192 beats/min) and mean systemic arterial pressures 56 vs. 72 torr). However, there were no significant differences for any of these measurements between the Group III and Group I lambs. The reduction in cardiac output in the Group II animals were reflected in a significantly lower blood flow to the peripheral circulation, but there were no significant differences in blood flow to other organs in the three groups. These studies indicate that plasma thyroid concentrations in the 2-3 wk prior to delivery and not the increase in thyroid hormone concentrations wich occur after birth are important for postnatal cardiovascular and metabolic adjustments. We speculate that lack of circulating triiodothyronine in late gestation may affect postnatal cardiovascular adaptation by modifying normal beta adrenergic receptor development.
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