September 1976

Administration of Corticosteroids to Induce Maturation of Fetal Lung

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego.

Am J Dis Child. 1976;130(9):976-978. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1976.02120100066010

Liggins1.2 first observed during studies on sheep that corticosteroid administration not only induced early parturition (117 to 123 days vs normal 150-day gestation), but that some of the lambs had partially expanded lungs, an unexpected finding as compared to control lamb fetuses of the same gestational age. Other investigators3-9 have verified and extended these observations in several species (rabbits, sheep, monkeys). Corticosteroids administered to fetuses promote normalization of the pressure-volume characteristics of premature fetal lungs, which is general evidence of acceleration of maturation of the surfactant-producing systems in lung. Elevated concentrations of lecithin in lungs of premature fetuses also have been reported following corticosteroid administration.10 There is evidence that corticosteroids enhance the activity of the choline incorporation pathway, the major route in the lung for the biosynthesis of lecithin.11

Surfactant plays a crucial role in stabilization of alveoli by lowering the surface tension at the alveolar

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