Pregnant sheep develop hypoxaemia during short-term anaesthesia for caesarean delivery

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Short-term anaesthesia of the pregnant ewe may be required for caesarean delivery of a preterm foetus within a research protocol. The aim of this study was to evaluate and compare the acid-base and haematological status of the ewe and foetus at the time of surgical delivery by collecting maternal and foetal arterial blood samples. Fifteen date-mated singleton-pregnant merino cross ewes at 122.0 (±0.5) days of gestation were anaesthetised with a combination of midazolam (0.5 mg/kg) and ketamine (10 mg/kg) by intravenous injection. A subarachnoid injection of lidocaine (60 mg) was given to desensitise the caudal abdomen. Supplemental oxygen was not provided, and an endotracheal tube was not placed in the ewe’s trachea. The development of maternal respiratory acidosis (hypercapnia) and hypoxaemia was anticipated. Samples of arterial blood for blood gas analyses were collected simultaneously from the radial artery of the ewe and the umbilical artery of the foetus immediately after delivery. The results from the maternal blood samples were within the normal range for pH, partial pressure of carbon dioxide in arterial blood (PaCO2), base excess, glucose, lactate, haematocrit and haemoglobin concentration. The maternal partial pressure of oxygen in arterial blood (PaO2) revealed hypoxaemia: 45.2 (41.1–53.4) mmHg. Foetal arterial blood gas analysis revealed hypoxaemia (15.0 ± 3.1 mmHg) and hypoglycaemia (0.1 (0.1–1.1) mmol/L). The benefit of providing supplemental oxygen and/or placing an endotracheal tube must be carefully weighed against the benefit of saving time when prompt delivery of the foetus is planned. In this study the pregnant ewe developed severe hypoxaemia, and this abnormality may have contributed to a low foetal PaO2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-503
Number of pages7
JournalLaboratory Animals
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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