So here was a late-breaker talk at H&R2019. Portal vein pulsatility and hyponatremia by a nephrologist – intensivist. Love it. Sharad, a really great guy, also recently published a case report on this topic.
There is a lot of stuff on venous congestion in the woodwork, some of which we are involved in, but also some springing up from different places, and this is really exciting, because POCUS gives you a non-invasive tool to assess and differentiate pathological degrees of congestion that really nothing else can with as much breadth, and as part of a comprehensive exam.
Venous POCUS is worth learning, and keep your eye on this space for how it evolves as a clinical tool. Our VEXUS classification will soon have some real substance behind it.
So last week sometime we had an interesting twitter exchange which made me realize it is important to explain how some of us are using venous POCUS in different clinical scenarios, which is key, because the development of monosynaptic clinical reflexes with POCUS findings is a rabbit hole we should try not to go down. Instead, POCUS should be about asking the right question and taking that answer as a piece of the pathophysiologic puzzle facing us, which may mean intervening sometimes, and sometimes not, for the same given finding, but with different surroundings.
Thanks to those involved in that discussion – it is how we grow!
And here are some thoughts:
For those not up to speed on venous congestion POCUS I put up the chapter that Korbin Haycock, Rory Spiegel and I worked on in this earlier post.
Here are Korbin’s thoughts on this:
I’m very glad Dr. Eduardo Argaiz pointed this case out, as it brings up considerations apropos both chronic venous congestive cases as well as management of acute illness, particularly in sepsis, where we would expect patients to most likely be fluid responsive, but fluid tolerance is largely overlooked with current management strategies by the majority of clinicians.
Phil’s above audio commentary points out the difference is these two broad categories very nicely. If you didn’t listen to it–you should.
With respect to chronic venous congestive conditions, the knowledge and application of Doppler assessment to therapy will hopefully be the next advance in management at large. Already, I think there is more than adequate research available to show the value of Doppler POCUS (D’POCUS, D/POCUS, or DPOCUS?) in managing these patients. It’s only a matter of clinicians willing to commit to learning and integrate this technology into their skill set.
With respect to resuscitation of the acutely ill patient, there is by far less data, and we are probably into the realm of N=1 here, in terms of how to manage these patients. But, I personally believe–and I understand this is my opinion–that current trends in resuscitation (especially sepsis resuscitation), largely ignores the effect of over volume resuscitation and the potential downstream damage inflicted on our patients.
This theoretical damage of over aggressive fluid resuscitation is multifactorial, including glycocalyx shedding issues/endothelial dysfunction, positive fluid balance and EVLW causing increased mortality (which there is ample evidence for, I think), venous congestion leading to perfusion injuries to encapsulated organs, such as the kidney (AKI) and brain (congestive encephalopathy), and end organ edema leading to the perpetuation of a malignant inflammatory syndrome (portal HTN and gut edema).
In the case called out by Dr. Argaiz, (which can be reviewed by the previous post on this website) my patient had an IVC that whilst not plethoric, was not an IVC that one would expect to find in a patient with a typical distributive shock pattern (i.e. increased cardiac output, decreased SVR, and decreased RAP). Firstly, the complicating factor of atrial fibrillation with RVR was central to the patient’s shock state, however this was quickly addressed with rate control. However, in addition, this particular patient did exhibit additional signs of venous congestion. The portal vein was pulsatile and the intrarenal Doppler pattern was interrupted/bi-phasic in nature. Granted, a pulsatile PV Doppler could be interpreted as related to the hyper dynamic nature of septic shock (as the esteemed Dr. Denault correctly cautioned in his comments on the original post), however a less than flat IVC and the intrarenal findings gave weight to a venous congestive hypothesis as a cause the PV findings as well as a possible cause for his AKI evident on his initial labs.
With this particular case, given my personal global POCUS/FOCUS assessment of his increased LAP (high E/e’), RV dysfunction, RAP, PV, and intrarenal Doppler venous pattern, AND that fact that the RRI was insanely high with an AKI, I elected to treat my hypothetical construct of his renosarca with furosamide and his RRI with vasopressin (as the NE infusion did increase his MAP, BUT NOT decrease his RRI–which the vasopressin infusion did decrease, or so I presume as no other therapeutic interventions were given with respect to the time frame the RRI decreased).
In the end his kidneys had recovered by the next morning, which I’m sure that any intensivist will admit is the opposite of the norm, as the kidneys usually get, at least transiently worse initially-being the delicate sissies/whimps that they are. Whether this was because of the diuretic or the vasopressin, or something else, is debatable for sure, but it sure didn’t get better by 30 cc/kg of crystalloid mandated by CMS, because he got not a drop more than what was needed to push the diltiazem, the lasix, the antibiotics, and the vasopressors.
So to summarize, in the case of chronic cardiogenic venous congestion, clinician realization and adoption of Doppler assessment of this entity will likely be the next leap in improvement in the management of these patients. In the case of acute resuscitation, venous congestion may be a bit more nuanced, and a more comprehensive evaluation is in order in a case by case fashion. However, I think recognition of the issues of over aggressive volume administration will probably be the next frontier in sepsis resuscitation.
So here’s another interesting question as a follow up to the previous discussions:
Most people would probably agree that florid congestive signs on POCUS means the RV is unable to pass any more extra volume to the left heart; whilst the absence of those signs mean that the patient may be able to cope with some additional volume without immediately engorging the vital organs.
And my question is: what about those in between? i.e. the patients who start to develop some mild congestive features on POCUS.
For those who are on the verge of congestion, diuresis would push the RV to the left (i.e. steep part) of Starling curve resulting in significant CO drop; conversely, extra volume pushes the RV to the right (i.e. flat part) leading to congestion or even D-shape LV, directly hindering CO as well. This margin becomes even smaller in patients whose RV starts to fail (i.e. entire Starling curve shifted downwards)
Great, great question. The crux of this, I think, is deciding which is the greater issue, congestion or poor perfusion. Obviously they are intertwined, so the decision will be on a case by case basis. Jonathan alludes here to a narrow “balance point” between congestion and preload dependancy. My feeling – and we’ll see if we can get some consensus – is that this indeed narrow in patients with marked pulmonary hypertension. When patients have pure pump failure congestion, my clinical experience is that you can decongest plenty without drop in systemic CO, in fact it often improves, likely related to ventricular interdependance. So let’s go on…
I’ll illustrate my point with the following scenario:
for previously healthy middle aged patients intubated and admitted to the ICU for ARDS from severe pneumonia, they quite often develop some acute cor pulmonale after mechanically ventilated for several days even if the PEEP/driving pressure isn’t exceptionally high; and they usually have resp failure and shock to start with.
Given that they don’t have pre-existing heart disease, the only signs suggesting the emergence of cor pulmonale could be subtle, without structural changes like dilated RV (RVEDD at most at upper normal range) nor abnormal septal movements. You may see TAPSE dropping to marginal level and portal vein PW signal may become a bit more pulsatile. IVC looks full and RVSP usually rises but not skyrocket. The MV inflow pattern & E/E’ suggest rather normal LA filling pressure, not surprising from a previously healthy heart.
In this case, it isn’t the LV diastolic dysfunction that overly afterloads the RV; and it isn’t the RV dilation that impairs the (D-shape) LV from ventricular interdependence. Therefore I’d consider the right heart circulation & left heart circulation running purely in series, whereby limiting the RV preload could reduce the LV CO.
Now, if this patient goes into shock, would you consider fluid challenge or diuretics? Everyone probably would also get other therapies on board, e.g pressor, inotrope, source control etc. But when the patient’s BP is 80/40mmHg, I am more prone to giving some fluid as I believe that reducing preload in a septic patient can precipitate arrest; and that RV only directly impairs LV CO once the IVS starts to shift, which should take more time and thereby easier to monitor.
Interesting case that happens commonly – if you do POCUS and look for it rather than blind-ish management. Here, you have congestion, likely due to pulmonary disease, fluids, on a normal-ish RV (which also means it is unable to mount a huge PAP).
So personally – and will full disclosure that this is not evidence-based (as if there was any evidence in our resuscitative practices!), I would consider this a relative contraindication to fluids, given the non-volume-tolerant state (ALI/pneumonia/ARDS and portal pulsatility) of the patient. With pulsatility and signs of organ dysfunction I would be diuresing or pulling fluid off. We’ll see if we can get Rory to comment, as he has been doing a fair bit of this.
So in this patient it would be either no fluids, or diurese.
I don’t think one should have a general conception that reducing preload in a septic patient category is an issue. That may be so if you do not have the capability to look, and hence feel you should behave more cautiously. A septic patient with a tiny IVC may indeed be tipped over into low CO by removing fluids, but another with a full tank post resuscitation may benefit. So with the ability to assess hemodynamics, individualized approaches trump general ides and protocols. Much more to come on this in the next weeks as we break down a lot of interesting concepts in regards to vascular tone assessment and cardiac efficiency.
I fully appreciate how ambiguous this situation is and that in reality the only way to find out the treatment that works is often by trial and error. Serial assessment by POCUS is definitely needed and one may even put the entire fluid thing aside and focus on other treatments. But just want to know your take and the reasons behind.
Thanks again for all your work and these thought provoking posts; and my apologies for the supposedly quick question ending up being not so quick. It took me some effort to clearly delineate my question in mind.
Anyone interested in these topics should keep an eye out for the H&R2019 Tracks. A bunch of us are getting together before and during the conference and will be recording discussions on all these little cases and angles around hemodynamics and other fun resuscitationist topics.
So given the importance of these topics, the number of questions and discussions we’ve had on the twitterverse, and most importantly in the spirit of #FOAMed, here is the chapter from the POCUS book which was co-authored by Rory Spiegel (@EMnerd), Korbin Haycock (@korbinhaycockmd) and myself.
So a couple years ago I posted a discussion about HPVG around an interesting case, noting how, although traditionally felt to give a poor prognosis, this was extrapolated from early data when it was being detected by conventional radiographs. This simple fact, due to the relatively low sensitivity of radiographs for air in the portal system, meant that these cases had a lot of air, implying a worse underlying process that that detected by POCUS, which is exquisitely sensitive to the detection of air bubbles.
Had another interesting case today which I tweeted. This is an elderly patient, POD#3 for a subtotal colectomy for an obstruction, in the ICU with severe AKI. When scanning his RUQ for fluid tolerance assessment, here is what I see:
Impressive. Frank bubbles coming up the PV, and the liver parenchyma with extensive HPVG. He had some abdominal pain, but he was not in shock (at least not pressor or lactic acidosis shock). My first reflex, since he was in AKI (non pre-renal and non obstructive, and with new evidence of loss of integrity of the bowel mucosa, was to get the surgeons to go take a look.
We agreed to scan first and take it from there. Their view was that, given the absence of frank shock, they were not keen to go back in. I have to say I would have preferred that they did go take a look straightaway, but, as they pointed out, opening someone up is not entirely without drawbacks.
So the scan was equivocal, with some air noted in the mesenteric vessels and possible in the mucosa of a bowel loop. Clinically he had not deteriorated. In the meantime, we had stopped his early enteral feeds and put his NGT on suction.
So I took another POCUS look, figuring that if things looked worse, I might take another charge at the surgical team:
Lo and behold, things had resolved… Biochemically, not much change either, and hemodynamics still fine.
So clearly, at least today, the decision to not operate was the right one. Kudos to the surgical team. And it was a more risky decision than that to operate, since the consequences of missing something correctable are worse than those of an unnecessary “white” exploratory laparotomy…
So what did happen? In all likelihood, the post-op ileus on an ill bowel resulted in some dilation and “mucosal leak.” The NG suction likely decompressed the bowel and allowed the circulation to clear the HPVG.
So the lesson for all POCUS users is that we are using a highly sensitive tool for HPVG, such that this finding is certainly more common than commonly thought, and should be concerning but not necessarily ominous or requiring surgical intervention. Certainly close monitoring and repeat assessments, clinical, POCUS and biochemical are important.
The challenge will be discerning the cases that do need intervention, which is not simple, since waiting for shock or hemodynamic instability would represent a late intervention, likely with poorer outcomes – surgery on vasopressors is a bit suboptimal.