Anticholinergic suppression of ovine fetal swallowing activity

M. J.M. Nijland, C. R. Chao, M. G. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Fetal swallowing contributes importantly to amniotic fit o volume regulation as the primary route of fluid resorption, reaching 500 to 1000 ml/day near term. Near-term ovine fetal swallowing activity occurs predominantly during low-voltage electrocortical activity. In view of the potential to pharmacologically alter electrocortical activity, we hypothesized that fetal administration of a centrally acting cholinergic antagonist may be used to modulate fetal swallowing activity. To explore cholinergic modulation of swallowing activity, we examined fetal swallowing and electrocortical activity in response to central and peripheral cholinergic suppression by atropine sulfate. STUDY DESIGN: Singleton ovine fetuses (n = 6) were chronically prepared with vascular catheters and thyrohyoid, nuchal, and thoracic esophageal electromyogram and biparietal electrocortical electrodes. Swallowing and electrocortical activity were monitored for 2 hours before and after intravenous injection (1 ml of 0.15 mol/L sodium chloride) of atropine sulfate (1 mg/kg). On a subsequent day an identical study was performed with use off atropine methyl nitrate (3 mg/kg), an atropine analog that does not cross the blood-brain barrier. RESULTS: Atropine sulfate decreased low-voltage electrocortical activity (56% ± 5% to 14% ± 4%), increased high-voltage electrocortical activity (40% ± 5% to 81% ± 5%), and did not change intermediate electrocortical activity (4% ± 1% to 5% ± 1%). Fetal swallowing activity decreased from 46 ± 12 to 12 ± 2 swallows per hour after atropine sulfate administration. Atropine methyl nitrate had no discernible effect on either fetal electrocortical or swallowing activity. Fetal arterial pressure, plasma osmolality, pH, PCO2 and PO2 did not change. CONCLUSIONS: Central cholinergic antagonism suppresses low-voltage fetal electrocortical and swallowing activity in the ovine fetus. Studies exploring spontaneous or induced feta swallowing should consider the behavioral state of the fetus when conclusions are drawn about changes in the swallowing activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1105-1112
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Atropine
  • Electroencephalography
  • Muscarinic antagonism
  • Sheep
  • Spectral analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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