A new method for quantifying adrenal secretory function in chronically catheterized fetal lambs was developed. This preparation included insertion of a catheter distally into the fetal left renal vein and placement of a remotely operated, hydraulically controlled choker around the renal vein at its junction with the vena cava. With the choker open, adrenal venous blood flowed into the renal vein and then into the vena cava. With the choker closed, adrenal blood flowed into the catheter so that timed samples of adrenal venous effluent could be obtained. With this technique, left adrenal secretory rates of norepinephrine and epinephrine were determined across a spectrum of oxygen concentrations in five near-term fetal lambs. There was a rapid rise in norepinephrine secretion after induction of hypoxemia. Maximum secretory rates occurred at about 5 min, concomitantly with the lowest attained fetal arterial partial pressure of oxygen (PO2s). There was an inverse exponential relation between these catecholamine secretion rates and fetal arterial PO2 (P < 0.001). Norepinephrine secretion appeared to increase in response to lesser degrees of hypoxemia than did epinephrine, although a longer time delay between stimulation and epinephrine response may have been a factor. Overall, norepinephrine secretion was greater than that of epinephrine. The ratios of norepinephrine to epinephrine in individual adrenal samples varied considerably and in some instances were less than one. These ratios did not correlate significantly with the degree of hypoxemia. During 25 min of a relatively steady state of hypoxemia, norepinephrine secretion declined markedly after about 5 min, although it remained above control levels throughout. Epinephrine secretion rose more gradually but then was relatively stable during the remaining period of hypoxemia.
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