The fetal adrenal gland is structurally significantly different from the adult adrenal gland. One of the obvious differences noted when performing fetal dissection is that the fetal adrenal gland is proportionately large, appearing nearly as large as the kidney in the early midtrimester. The normal adrenal gland weight in adults is about 5% of the normal kidney weight and, combined, the adrenals represent 0.02% of total adult body weight. The adrenal/kidney weight and adrenal/body weight ratios in fetuses are much higher throughout fetal life (see Fig. 18-1) [1,2]. The bulk of the fetal adrenal gland is largely due to the presence of the fetal adrenal cortex, or fetal zone, that produces dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA-sulfate. These weak androgens are important precursors of placental estrogens. Later in gestation the fetal adrenal gland will also produce aldosterone and cortisol.
KeywordsAdrenal Gland Chromaffin Cell Fetal Life Zona Glomerulosa Zona Fasciculata
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