Infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (DH) and profound pulmonary hypoplasia are currently unsalvageable. The authors previously demonstrated that tracheal ligation (TL) accelerates fetal lung growth and reverses the pulmonary hypoplasia of fetal nephrectomy. The purpose of this study was to determine if the pulmonary hypoplasia of experimental DH could be similarly reversed and, if so, whether the resulting lungs would show better function than those of their DH counterparts. Eighteen fetal lambs were divided into three experimental groups of six animals each. In group 1, DH was created at 90 days' gestation. In group 2, DH was created at 90 days' gestation and TL performed during the same operation. Group 3 consisted of sham-operated controls. These animals were delivered near full-term, and their lungs analyzed by standard morphometric techniques. Ten additional fetal lambs were divided into two experimental groups of five animals each. In group 4, DH was created at 90 days' gestation. In group 5, DH was created at 90 days' gestation and TL performed 20 days later, at 110 days' gestation. These animals were pressure-ventilated via tracheostomy over a 2-hour period in which Pao2, Paco2, and compliance were measured. Intratracheal pressure (ITP) was measured at the time of delivery in all groups. Upon retrieval, DH animals had abdominal viscera in the chest and small lungs; in contrast, DH/TL animals had the herniated viscera reduced from the chest by enlarged lungs. DH/TL lungs showed markedly increased growth, with significant increases in lung volume:body weight ratio (LV:BW; P = .0001), alveolar surface area (ALV.SA; P = .0001), and alveolar number (ALV#) (P = .0001) when compared with those of the DH or control group. This growth was associated with a normal maturation pattern based on histological appearance, normal airspace fraction, and normal alveolar numerical density. ITP in the DH/TL group was increased when compared with that of DH and control animals (P = .0001). Total lung DNA and protein were both elevated in the DH/TL animals (P = .0001). However, the DNA:protein ratio remained normal, suggesting lung growth had occurred through cell proliferation, not by hypertrophy. When ventilated over a range of settings, DH/TL lungs were more compliant (P = .0001) and achieved higher Pao2s (P < .003) and lower Paco2s (P = .001) than their DH counterparts. From these data, the authors conclude: (1) Experimental fetal DH produces hypoplastic lungs that are not capable of adequate gas exchange with conventional ventilation. (2) Fetal tracheal ligation is capable of reversing these effects and accelerating lung growth beyond even normal levels, while preserving the normal maturation process. (3) The mechanical and physiological consequences of TL in DH are reduction of the herniated abdominal viscera from the chest by enlarged lungs that are more compliant and more efficient at gas exchange than those from DH alone. (4) Fetal TL produces increased ITP, which may be responsible for the pulmonary growth observed.
- Congenital diaphragmatic hernia, pulmonary hypoplasia
- tracheal ligation, fetal lung growth
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health