Fetal rabbits were treated with corticosteroids by maternal administration for 48 h before delivery at 27 d gestational age. The treated and control rabbits were placed on ventilator-plethysmographs so that ventilation could be adjusted by regulation of tidal volumes to 10-13 ml/kg body wt. [125I]albumin was mixed with fetal lung fluid at birth, alternate rabbits from each litter were treated with Surfactant-TA, and [131I]albumin was injected intravascularly. The movement of the labeled albumins into and out of the alveolar wash and lung tissue was measured after 30 min of ventilation. Corticosteroid treatment (total dose, 0.2 mg/kg betamethasone) significantly decreased the protein leak across the endothelium (P < 0.001) but increased the protein leak across the epithelium (P < 0.001). Surfactant treatment decreased both the endothelial and epithelial leaks, and the combination of surfactant and corticosteroid treatments decreased endothelial leaks to 29% of control values and increased compliance more than either treatment alone. the 48-h corticosteroid treatment did not increase alveolar surfactant pool sizes. Corticosteroids significantly changed lung protein leaks independently of surfactant, and improved the response of the preterm lung to surfactant treatments.
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