Fetal circulatory response to oxygen lack
The knowledge on fetal and neonatal circulatory physiology accumulated by basic scientists and clinicians over the years has contributed considerably to the recent decline of perinatal morbidity and mortality. This review will summarize the peculiarities of the fetal circulation, the distribution of organ blood flow during normoxemia, and that during oxygen lack caused by various experimental perturbations. Furthermore, the relation between oxygen delivery and tissue metabolism during oxygen lack as well as evidence to support a new concept will be presented along with the principal cardiovascular mechanisms involved. Finally, blood flow and oxygen delivery to the principal fetal organs will be examined and discussed in relation to organ function. The fetal circulatory response to hypoxemia and asphyxia is a centralization of blood flow in favour of the brain, heart, and adrenals and at the expense of almost all peripheral organs, particularly of the lungs, carcass, skin and scalp. This response is qualitatively similar but quantitatively different under various experimental conditions. However, at the nadir of severe acute asphyxia the circulatory centralization cannot be maintained. Then there is circulatory decentralization, and the fetus will experience severe brain damage if not expire unless immediate resuscitation occurs. Future work in this field will have to concentrate on the important questions, what factors determine this collapse of circulatory compensating mechanisms in the fetus, how does it relate to neuronal damage, and how can the fetal brain be pharmacologically protected against the adverse effects of asphyxia.