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The effects of fetal tracheostomy on lung development in lambs have been investigated. Seven ewes, all with twin fetuses, were given a general anesthetic. One fetus in each set of twins was tracheostomized and the other fetus was sham operated (117-122 days gestation). The fetuses were delivered by cesarean section between 137 and 140 days gestation. Fetal tracheostomy decreased lung weight and volume, altered DNA concentration and the structural development of the acinus, and decreased lung distensibility. However, tissue and airway saturated phosphatidylcholine and lung stability during deflation were not significantly affected by fetal tracheostomy. It seems that tracheostomy in fetal lambs alters lung growth but does not affect the formation or release of surfactant. These data support the hypothesis that lung volume is actively maintained and lung growth promoted by the secretion of lung fluid against the resistance of the upper airway in fetal lambs.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Applied Physiology Respiratory Environmental and Exercise Physiology

Publication Date





1103 - 1108