Objective Intrauterine infections can by themselves induce fetal brain damage but also potentiate the effects of other harmful influences such as asphyxia and seizures.
Using an EEG technique that permits the recording of extremely low frequencies, often called DC EEG, changes in the level, i.e. DC shifts, can be detected. The DC level has been suggested to depend mainly on the potential over the blood brain barrier (BBB), in turn decided primarily by the arterial level of pCO2.
Fetuses affected by infection/inflammation that produce detrimental effects on the brain, may have elevated levels of pCO2 and disturbance of the BBB. We aimed at investigating the possibility that the DC EEG could be used to detect the effects of inflammation on the fetal brain.
Methods Fetal sheep were instrumented at 97 days of gestation with catheters, four active EEG electrodes placed on the dura mater as well as extracranial reference and ground electrodes. After three days of recovery, the bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was given to the fetus (200 ng i.v.).
Results Exposure to LPS induced a positive DC shift in parallel to the assumed affection of cerebral function and to the pCO2 elevation. This change was not always obvious in standard EEG.
Conclusions These recordings of fetal DC EEG appear to be the first to be done. They indicate that the effects of inflammation on cerebral function can be monitored by DC EEG. Such monitoring might be feasible also during late stages of labour and in neonates.