Background: Transient hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction occurs in critically ill foals with sepsis and neonatal maladjustment syndrome (NMS). Cortisol is the most commonly measured steroid. However, a complex interaction of various steroid compounds might play a role in pathophysiology of this disorder. Objective: To identify steroid compounds present at high concentrations at birth that rapidly and steadily decrease within the first 7 days of life in healthy foals and that might be supportive diagnosis of NMS and other neonatal disorders. Animals: Ten healthy neonatal Quarter Horse foals (5 females and 5 males). Methods: Prospective study. Blood was collected in heparinized tubes within 30 minutes after birth, and at 12, 24, 48, 72, 96, 120, 144, and 168 hours of age. Plasma was separated and a panel of steroid compounds was analyzed using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. A nonlinear regression model was used to determine decay concentrations over time. Confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated and significance was set a P ≤.05. Results: Five compounds were identified: pregnenolone, progesterone, deoxycorticosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate. Pregnenolone and progesterone concentrations rapidly decreased by 24 hours of age and remained low throughout the first 7 days of life. Their half-life (95% CI) was short at 3.7 (3.4, 4.0) and 4.5 (2.8, 6.1) hours, respectively. No statistical differences in the concentrations of these compounds were found between males and females. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance: Progesterone might be a useful marker for identifying continuous endogenous production of neuroactive steroids in foals with suspected NMS and other neonatal diseases.
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