Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition vol:32 issue:3 pages:287-92
BACKGROUND: Because meconium accumulates continuously in the fetal intestine, analysis of the postnatally excreted material could yield important information of intrauterine metabolism and maturation. Therefore, a study of the bilirubin pigments in meconium and in the first neonatal stools was carried out. METHODS: Meconium and stools from 37 neonates of various gestational ages were collected carefully, and stored at -20 degrees C, protected by aluminium foil. Samples were defrosted, vortex mixed with an equal amount of dimethyl sulfoxide, centrifuged, and submitted to analysis by high-pressure liquid chromatography using newly developed methods to identify and to quantitate the bilirubin-IXalpha, -IXbeta, -IXgamma, and -IXdelta isomers. In addition, samples were also submitted to diazo coupling with ethyl anthranilate. Total coproporphyrins and zinc coproporphyrin were assayed for comparison. RESULTS: Unconjugated bilirubin-IXalpha and -IXbeta were detected in meconium but not the -IXgamma or the -IXbeta isomer. Bilirubin-IXbeta was the predominant pigment and comprised 63% to 96% of the unconjugated bilirubins in the first sample of meconium excreted. Its amount decreased rapidly during the first 5 days in full-term newborns, but this occurred more slowly in preterm neonates, especially in those with a gestational age less than 30 weeks. The decrease of bilirubin-IXbeta over time correlated with that of coproporphyrin. CONCLUSIONS: Bilirubin-IXbeta is the prevailing bile pigment in the first excreted sample of meconium. It gradually decreases after birth and can be considered a biochemical marker of meconium, like zinc coproporphyrin.