Fetal heart rate variability is a biomarker of rapid but not progressive exacerbation of inflammation in preterm fetal sheep

Shoichi Magawa, Christopher A. Lear, Michael J. Beacom, Victoria J. King, Michi Kasai, Robert Galinsky, Tomoaki Ikeda, Alistair J. Gunn, Laura Bennet

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Perinatal infection/inflammation can trigger preterm birth and contribute to neurodevelopmental disability. There are currently no sensitive, specific methods to identify perinatal infection. We investigated the utility of time, frequency and non-linear measures of fetal heart rate (FHR) variability (FHRV) to identify either progressive or more rapid inflammation. Chronically instrumented preterm fetal sheep were randomly assigned to one of three different 5d continuous i.v. infusions: 1) control (saline infusions; n = 10), 2) progressive lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 200 ng/kg over 24 h, doubled every 24 h for 5d, n = 8), or 3) acute-on-chronic LPS (100 ng/kg over 24 h then 250 ng/kg/24 h for 4d plus 1 μg boluses at 48, 72, and 96 h, n = 9). Both LPS protocols triggered transient increases in multiple measures of FHRV at the onset of infusions. No FHRV or physiological changes occurred from 12 h after starting progressive LPS infusions. LPS boluses during the acute-on-chronic protocol triggered transient hypotension, tachycardia and an initial increase in multiple time and frequency domain measures of FHRV, with an asymmetric FHR pattern of predominant decelerations. Following resolution of hypotension after the second and third LPS boluses, all frequencies of FHRV became suppressed. These data suggest that FHRV may be a useful biomarker of rapid but not progressive preterm infection/inflammation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1771
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2022

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