MRI Characterization of Blood Flow and Oxygen Delivery in the Fetal Sheep whilst Exposed to Sildenafil Citrate

Janna L. Morrison, Georgia K. Williams, Steven K.S. Cho, Brahmdeep S. Saini, Ashley S. Meakin, Stacey L. Holman, Megan Quinn, Michael D. Wiese, Christopher K. Macgowan, Mike Seed, Jack R.T. Darby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Newborns exposed to sildenafil citrate (SC) in utero have increased rates of persistent pulmonary hypertension. The mechanism behind this has not yet been fully elucidated. We aimed to utilize a combination of clinically relevant MRI techniques to comprehensively characterize the haemodynamics of the fetal sheep whilst under the influence of SC. We hypothesized that these MRI techniques would detect SC-induced increases in pulmonary blood flow and oxygen delivery prior to birth. Methods: At 116-117 days gestational age (term, 150 days), pregnant Merino ewes (n = 9) underwent fetal catheterization surgery. MRI scans were performed during a basal state and then repeated during a constant umbilical vein infusion of SC to measure blood flow and oxygenation within the major vessels of the fetal circulation using phase-contrast-MRI and T2 oximetry. Results: Right and left ventricular cardiac outputs were not different between states. Pulmonary blood flow increased during the SC state resulting in elevated pulmonary oxygen delivery. Right to left heart shunting through the foramen ovale was reduced without reducing cerebral oxygen delivery. Conclusion: SC induces alterations to pulmonary haemodynamics in utero; a characteristic that if maintained may underlie or act as a precursor towards the elevated rates of poor pulmonary outcomes after birth. These MRI techniques are the first to comprehensively characterize sildenafil's direct impact on the pulmonary vasculature and its indirect detriment to the flow of oxygen-rich blood through the foramen ovale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-744
Number of pages10
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Dec 2022


  • Cardiovascular system
  • FGR
  • Fetal development
  • Fetal growth restriction
  • Fetus
  • IUGR
  • MRI
  • Phase-contrast-MRI
  • Sildenafil
  • Toximetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental Biology

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