Foetal cardiac output is high, and the heart has not been shown to have the sustained reserves demonstrated in the adult heart. About 40% (approximately 200 ml. kg body weight-1. min-1) of the combined output of both ventricles (CVO) in unanaesthetized foetal lambs in late gestation is directed to the umbilical circulation. At least one-half of the systemic flow (approximately 300 ml. kg body weight-1. min-1) goes to skin and carcass. About 50% of the remainder (10% CVO) is shared by brain, heart and kidney and the rest by other viscera; less than 6% CVO perfuses the lungs. Hypoxaemia, acidaemia and various vasomotor agents influence the partition of cardiac output between systemic and umbilical circulations, with or without relatively small changes of blood pressure, which is low by adult standards. In general, the conductance of systemic circuits is more susceptible to change than that of the umbilical. Both cerebral and myocardial blood flow increase several-fold during hypoxaemia. The additional volume flow of blood demanded by such vasodilatation in organs forming a relatively small proportion of body weight is more than accounted for by concurrent vasoconstriction in muscle (which contributes a substantial fraction of body weight) and other tissues. Both humoral and reflex neural mechanisms are involved in these adjustments.

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