Journal of pediatric surgery vol:33 issue:2 pages:299-303
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that tracheal obstruction (plugging) in the fetal lamb model leads to a decrease in the absolute number of type II pneumocytes and that reversing the obstruction before birth (unplugging), allows the type II cells to recover while maintaining the beneficial effect on lung growth. METHODS: Nine time-dated pregnant ewes (term, 145 days), carrying 17 fetuses, were used in this surgical trial. The fetuses were divided into three experimental groups: group A underwent plugging at 93 days gestation, followed by unplugging at 110 days; group B animals had tracheal ligation at 93 days and group C consisted of unoperated controls. All fetuses were delivered by cesarean section at 136 days' gestation. The fetal trachea was obstructed with the tracheoscopically placed detachable balloon described by our group. Unplugging was performed by needle puncture of the balloon under tracheoscopic vision. Outcome measurements consisted of lung-to-body-weight ratio (LWBR), lung morphometry (mean terminal bronchial density [MTBD] and linear intercept [Lm]), and assessment of the number of type II pneumocytes. The latter was determined by in situ hybridization to the mRNA of surfactant protein-C, which is exclusively produced by type II cells. Statistics were calculated using a two-tailed unpaired t test and P less than .05 is considered significant. RESULTS: Seventeen animals are included in the results. All of them had lung samples analyzed for lung morphometry, whereas for type II cells analysis, three animals were studied in each group. Morphometric analyses were consistent with pulmonary hyperplasia for group B, whereas group A lungs showed more histological maturity than group C albeit not as marked as group B. In group A, there was a similar number of type II cells to that observed in group C (53.2 +/- 3.9 v 55.9 +/- 4.0, P = .66). However, for group B animals, the number of type II pneumocytes was markedly decreased compared with controls (4.7 +/- 0.1 v 55.9 +/- 4, P = .0003). CONCLUSIONS: The authors conclude that tracheal ligation until birth, although inducing pulmonary hyperplasia, significantly decreases the number of type II pneumocytes in the alveoli. After a temporary 15-day occlusion initiated at 95 days' gestation, there is complete normalization of the density of type II cells. These results bear importance on the duration of PLUG to treat the pulmonary hypoplasia seen in congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Temporary tracheal obstruction now needs to be tested in a hypoplastic lung model.