Low-dose betamethasone-acetate for fetal lung maturation in preterm sheep

Augusto F. Schmidt, Matthew W. Kemp, Judith Rittenschober-Böhm, Paranthaman S. Kannan, Haruo Usuda, Masatoshi Saito, Lucy Furfaro, Shimpei Watanabe, Sarah Stock, Boris W. Kramer, John P. Newnham, Suhas G. Kallapur, Alan H. Jobe

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47 Citations (Scopus)


Background Antenatal steroids are standard of care for women who are at risk of preterm delivery; however, antenatal steroid dosing and formulation have not been evaluated adequately. The standard clinical 2-dose treatment with betamethasone-acetate+betamethasone-phosphate is more effective than 2 doses of betamethasone-phosphate for the induction of lung maturation in preterm fetal sheep. We hypothesized that the slowly released betamethasone-acetate component induces similar lung maturation to betamethasone-phosphate+betamethasone-acetate with decreased dose and fetal exposure. Objective The purpose of this study was to investigate pharmacokinetics and fetal lung maturation of antenatal betamethasone-acetate in preterm fetal sheep. Study Design Groups of 10 singleton-pregnant ewes received 1 or 2 intramuscular doses 24 hours apart of 0.25 mg/kg/dose of betamethasone-phosphate+betamethasone-acetate (the standard of care dose) or 1 intramuscular dose of 0.5 mg/kg, 0.25 mg/kg, or 0.125 mg/kg of betamethasone-acetate. Fetuses were delivered 48 hours after the first injection at 122 days of gestation (80% of term) and ventilated for 30 minutes, with ventilator settings, compliance, vital signs, and blood gas measurements recorded every 10 minutes. After ventilation, we measured static lung pressure-volume curves and sampled the lungs for messenger RNA measurements. Other groups of pregnant ewes and fetuses were catheterized and treated with intramuscular injections of betamethasone-phosphate 0.125 mg/kg, betamethasone-acetate 0.125 mg/kg, or betamethasone-acetate 0.5 mg/kg. Maternal and fetal betamethasone concentrations in plasma were measured for 24 hours. Results All betamethasone-treated groups had increased messenger RNA expression of surfactant proteins A, B, and C, ATP-binding cassette subfamily A member 3, and aquaporin-5 compared with control animals. Treatment with 1 dose of intramuscular betamethasone-acetate 0.125mg/kg improved dynamic and static lung compliance, gas exchange, and ventilation efficiency similarly to the standard treatment of 2 doses of 0.25 m/kg of betamethasone-acetate+betamethasone-phosphate. Betamethasone-acetate 0.125 mg/kg resulted in lower maternal and fetal peak plasma concentrations and decreased fetal exposure to betamethasone compared with betamethasone-phosphate 0.125 mg/kg. Conclusion A single dose of betamethasone-acetate results in similar fetal lung maturation as the 2-dose clinical formulation of betamethasone-phosphate+betamethasone-acetate with decreased fetal exposure to betamethasone. A lower dose of betamethasone-acetate may be an effective alternative to induce fetal lung maturation with less risk to the fetus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132.e1-132.e9
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan


  • antenatal corticosteroids
  • betamethasone
  • fetal lung maturation
  • prematurity


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