So a few years ago I had a patient in the ICU, post op for some abdominal surgery, and, using POCUS, I detected a hyper echoic area in the liver, in a wedge shape. I scanned the patient and, lo and behold, there was a matching area of air-filled hepatic venous sinuses on CT scan. Well, my surgical colleague and I were very concerned and proceeded to inform the patient he would be needing exploratory surgery for what was likely ischémie bowel. He essentially – though in more polite words – told us we were idiots and that his belly felt fine and he didn’t think surgery would be needed at all.
His belly did feel fine. So were his labs. So we worried, but, given this whole thing about free will and consent, etc, couldn’t very well force him into what we felt was necessary surgery.
The next day he was fine. On POCUS, the area of air had shrunk. The next day, it was gone altogether.
We thanked him for his keen clinical acumen and for teaching us a good lesson.
However, we were a bit perplexed, because traditional teaching equated portal venous air with a severe bowel disorder, usually ischemic or inflammatory, with exceedingly high mortality. At least that is what we had been fed. We are both grads of 1999. Hmmm…
So over the next few years we saw a few of these cases, sometimes bad, sometimes not, and a review of the literature (see below) showed an interesting evolution of the disease. Described in the 1950’s on plain films, hepatic air was a bad omen indeed, with mortality in the 75-90% range. In the CT era, the mortality started to “drop” to the 35-60% range. Now you can find quite a few reports of “surprisingly” good outcomes with conservative management. So this evolution doesn’t represent a change in severity so much as the technological capability to detect smaller and smaller amounts of air in the venous system – just increased sensitivity. And now, with POCUS – ultrasound is the most sensitive detector of air in a vascular tree – the associated mortality is likely to take another drop, not only because of our ability to detect very small amounts of air, but also because we are actually looking at the area, and also in a wider range of patient’ pathologies that those commonly associated with HPVG.
Clinical Case: HPVG and PE!
So a couple weeks ago I saw a patient in the ED who’d recently broken an ankle, had her foot put in a boot and managed conservatively and came back dyspneic and tachycardic. Here are a couple of clips:
As always, I start with the IVC:
Big & fixed.
So here the source of the problem is pretty clear, a large common femoral DVT.
She wasn’t very echogenic so I don’t have great clips of the heart but she had a dilated and hypocontractile RV with a McConnell’s sign (preserved apical contraction), small and hyper dynamic LV with septal flattening.
Now here is where it gets interesting, the portal vein:
You can clearly see bubbles traveling up the portal vein. Ominous, or not?
So clinically, her abdomen was normal, she had no abdominal symptomatology at all…
So the severe RV obstruction resulted in significant venous congestion. Additionally, the decreased cardiac output – as manifested by a lactate of 4 and mild tachycardia/hypotension (110 HR, BP sys 90’s) was clear.
The etiology of HPVG in the literature isn’t clear – mucosal disruption, bacterial gas are all mentioned but as far as I could find, no definitive answer.
Is it possible that there is a “normal” inward leak of mucosal gas that is normally fully dissolved in the venous bloodstream, but that, in cases of low flow and/or venous congestion, the dissolution capacity (per unit time) decreases, and that gas comes out of solution? Alternately, those who have increased intraluminal pressure (gastric distension, etc), the increased transmembrane gas driving pressure may overload an adequate blood flow…
This would explain the benign course of many patients, particularily those with gastric dilation.
Based on hemodynamics, tachypnea and, to some degree, venous congestion, I decided to thrombolyse her using 1/2 dose lytics. Within a couple of hours her HR decreased to the 90’s and BP rose to 110 systolic. Echographically, however, the IVC/RV findings remained similar, but the HPVG decreased. By the next day, HPVG was altogether gone, lactate had resolved and dyspnea was significantly better.
Take Home Message:
HPVG, although not quite as poor a prognostic sign as once thought, nonetheless warrants concern and investigation, even if the abdominal exam is entirely normal and without symptomatology, as correction of an underlying cause of “benign” HPVG (whether low-flow or bowel distension) would still need to be addressed.
In the meantime, I suspect that, reported or not, this has been noted by other POCUS enthusiasts, since we are now looking more frequently at this area, and are dealing with patients with low-flow states, congestion, bowel obstruction/ileus or more than one of these.
Hopefully some investigators will take a look at this phenomenon and delineate the pathophysiological mechanism!
Love to hear of your experience with this.
For those interested in POCUS, see here for a quick read primer on clinical applications of POCUS.
So here is our second discussion, where we delve a bit into diuretic physiology, the issue of organ congestion, the myth of the “low-flow” acute renal failure associated with CHF (see earlier post), and a couple other things including a great way to determine if a patient isn’t respecting the low salt diet prescription!
I meant to, but forgot to discuss with Jon what I think is an important end-point in CHF management: the IVC. Yes, it is useful not just to make the diagnosis of congestion, but also target normalization of IVC physiology prior to discharge. It just makes common sense. If you decongest a patient just enough to get them off O2 and send them home, they bounce back a lot quicker than if you make sure you’re given them some intravascular leeway. How do you determine this? Simple enough, make sure your IVC is down at least to below 20mm, and has recovered the classic acxvy and respiratory variation. I personally try to get into the 8-12 mm range, but that’s arbitrary. Here is some good data for 20mm:
So I was in NYC last week and met up with my buddy Jon-Emile Kenny, (@heart_lung), intensivist-physiologist extraordinaire, and we recorded a few discussions on practical matters.
I always love to debunk myths and avoid dogmatic guesswork, and, more often than not, Jon, with his encyclopedic knowledge of the physiology literature, but more importantly a cutting edge understanding of it, can back up my vague ideas and empirically derived ideas, so that the next time someone asks me why this is so, I can have a semi-enlightened answer!
So here is the first, where we discuss the common question about the need (or not) of intravascular volume repletion during or following large volume paracentesis. Yes, there are some formulas out there as to how much albumin or crystalloid one should give, due to the worry of subsequent hypovolemia. Note how those formulas use no data about your patient’s volume status at the time of paracentesis, so as far as I’m concerned, they have no value whatsoever in an era where we can assess this. Yes, ultrasound is the base as far as I’m concerned.
So a few weeks ago Scott (@EmCrit) asked me to be part of a pretty cool webinar organized by the Greater New York Hospital Association about fluids in sepsis. The gang consisted of David Gaiesky, Emmanuel Rivers and moderated by Scott himself. And for some obscure reason, he asked me to be part of it – much to my honour (terror, also), naturally. It was only afterwards that he told me it was to help stir the pot and be controversial, challenge the “old school” etc… He seemed to have overlooked that I am Canadian, and inherently and perhaps overly polite and considerate – at least live and in “person”!
We talk about a bunch of stuff around fluids, which, how much, how to assess, etc.
Anyhow, I hope I got a few ideas across, but it was really cool to hear that these gurus do use ultrasound – don’t necessarily strictly adhere to, for instance, EGDT, and also advocate that guidelines are guidelines and not necessarily gold standards.
Here is the link to the webinar for those interested:
So I’d mentioned using NIRS to monitor and tailor therapy a few months ago, and promised a more in-depth discussion to come, so here we go.
For this not familiar with the technology or the concept, NIRS measures tissue saturation, predominantly venous. Hence physiologically it is akin to central/mixed venous gases, but localized. Cerebral NIRS found its foothold in the OR with carotid and cardiac surgery, but its use is now expanding. Given typical knowledge translation time of a decade, it should end up joining ETCO2 as a routine vital in monitored units, but probably not soon enough.
So in our unit at Santa Cabrini Hospital in Montreal, we’ve had this technology for about a year (the INVOS system), and have been studying its uses. In this time, three applications have stood out:
Finding the “Sweet Spot” for vasopressors.
Confirmation that therapeutic interventions are hemodynamically appropriate.
Cardiac arrest: CPR adequacy, prognostication and detecting ROSC.
Finding the “Sweet Spot” – I think (hope) that anyone reading this with professional interest understands that pressure does not necessarily equal perfusion. With that in mind, adjusting vasopressors to a pressure makes little sense, and represents at best a guesstimate of perfusion, which is what we really are after. We can all agree, however, that a certain minimum pressure is required, but whether that is 65, 55 or 45 MAP no one can say for sure. So the way I like to use it is to establish a baseline and watch the direction of the tissue saturation with vasopressor therapy. If the saturation begins to drop off, we may have reached a point at which excessive vasoconstriction is worsening tissue perfusion, and that inflexion point may represent the upper beneficial limit of the vasopressor – this may happen to be under 60 or 65 of MAP. However, it is key to understand that this inflexion point is reflective of the current state of hemodynamics, such that a change in volume status or cardiac output, in one direction or the other, would likely change the position of this physiological point. For example, a volume depleted patient may reach a decreasing tissue saturation point at 55 MAP, but, once volume replete, may reach a higher MAP of 65 or above before a drop in saturation is seen. Conversely, a patient whose best tissue saturations were around 65 MAP who suffers an MI and sudden drop in cardiac output may now see his perfusion compromised at that same MAP, which would now be achieved with a greater vasoconstriction, less cardiac output and consequently, poorer flow… I posted a case discussion which illustrates this.
Confirmation that therapeutic interventions are hemodynamically appropriate – I feel this is really important. When a patient’s life is literally on the line, and knowing that our interventions are seldom without potential nefarious side effects, it is poor medicine to be introducing a therapy without having some form of monitoring – preferably multiple – that we are headed in the right direction, or at least not making things worse. Of course, we already do this – with BP, sat, lactate, CCO, ultrasound, ETCO2 – but I think using a realtime measure of tissue saturation adds to this. It is also my firm opinion that integrated, multimodality monitoring is necessary – at least until someone develops some form of mitochondrial monitoring which tells us that the cytoenergetics are sufficient to survive. Until then we are stuck with surrogate markers and many of them (e.g. lactate) are the result of complex processes that preclude them being a simple indicator of perfusion adequacy. For instance, when giving a fluid bolus/infusion – after having determined that the patient is likely fluid responsive AND tolerant – one should expect to see an increase in ETCO2 (other parameters being constant), an increase in CO, an increase in NIRS values. The absence of such response should make one reconsider the intervention, because without benefit, we are left only with side effects.
Here is a patient’s cerebral (top) and and somatic (thigh – bottom) and CO values. This patient had an RV infarct and was in shock.
Following initiation of dobutamine, this is what occurred:
Given that we cannot always predict the response to an inotrope – depending on the amount of recruitable myocardium, it is reassuring to see an improving trend. This enabled us to decrease the vasopressor dose significantly.
Note that, so far, and unless some good evidence comes out, I don’t use a goal value, and so far, I have not identified a value that is predictive of prognosis. However, downward trends usually bode very poorly. For instance, I had a severe chronic cardiomyopathy patient whose cerebral saturation was 15%!!! But more surprisingly, she was awake, alert and hemodynamically stable. Adaptation.
Part 2 and the stuff on cardiac arrest coming soon!
Please, anyone using NIRS in shock, share your experience!
So I know I’ve belaboured the point about the difference between volume responsiveness (i.e. will there be significant increase in cardiac output with volume infusion) and volume tolerance (is the volume I am considering giving going to have nefarious consequences), because in my opinion, the focus has been – rightly so to some degree – to look for an accurate way of discerning responsive patients from non. Of course this is absolutely necessary, as one does not want to give volume if it will not have any benefit, but the too-common corollary to that is to automatically give volume to those who are responsive. Here is an earlier post about this:
So in discussing with a bright young colleague yesterday, Dr. St-Arnaud (@phil_star_sail), I realized that there may be a common conception that physiologically, the relationship between the two may be the following:
This would mean that it is safe to give volume until a patient is no longer volume responsive, and even perhaps a bit more. Alternately, the two may be closer:
This would mean that once can go just till the point where the patient is no longer volume responsive.
Either one of these scenarios would be awesome. That would mean that by using any of the flow or volume variation techniques, arterial or venous, we could pretty much remain safe.
While the above may hold true for healthy subjects, I would contend that in sick people (which is who I tend to deal with, especially when resuscitating shock), that the more likely physiological relationship is the following:
Hmmm… That would mean that assessing for volume responsiveness would only tell you that there would be an increase in cardiac output, but absolutely nothing about whether it would be safe to do so.
This concept is not a new one by any stretch of the imagination. It’s inferred in the diagnosis of “non-cardiogenic pulmonary oedema.” So what causes this shift? Here:
So, how do we figure out where the point is? Sorry to say there is no answer that I know of. My friend Daniel Lichtenstein uses the FALLS Protocol (identifying the appearance of B lines during resuscitation) which is the least we should do, but I suspect that at that point, we have already overshot the mark. My adopted mentor Dr. Andre Denault (@Ad12andre, in addition to IVC, has identified portal vein characteristics including pulsatility (lots of stuff in press) to show that the viscera are at risk, but as of yet there is no simple answer. CVP value? Please. CVP tracing morphology? Maybe.
No simple answer. No one-size-fits-all velue to look for. Clinical integration.
In my opinion, one should not, in sick patients, seek to volume resuscitate until the point of no-volume-responsiveness. The old adage of “you have to swell to get well” likely kills a few additional patients along the way, just as much as under-resuscitation. I plead guilty for over-resuscitating patients for years before realizing that being on the flat part of Frank-Starling is 100% a pathological state.
Love to hear your ideas and comments!
Jon-Emile Kenny says:
I like your graphics, it makes the concepts tangible. I think we should try to integrate ‘volume status’ into this framework as well. A physiological purist might say that as soon as you are ‘hypervolemic’, you are volume intolerant, because hypervolemia is an abnormal state which should always be avoided. A functionalist might say that you become volume intolerant as soon as you have physiological embarrassment of any organ system – but how is this determined? My gut is that by the time there are B-lines in the lung, you’ve gone too far. By the time there is abnormality of splanchnic venous return, you’ve already gone too far. I am more of a purist, so in my perfect ICU, I would perform q4-6 hour radio-labeled albumin studies to determine the patient’s true plasma volume. In health, the normal blood volume is about 80 mL/kg [thus, once you’ve given a 70kg man 5 L of NS, you’ve almost certainly replenished his vascular volume]. The moment that the blood volume becomes > 95% the norm, I would call the patient volume intolerant and stop volume expansion and focus on venous tone with pressors, cardiac function with inotropes, etc. To me, this makes the most sense in the pure Guytonian world; if you keep flogging a patient with litre after litre of fluid and the patient’s BP remains low, you are missing something – volume is not the answer – regardless of what an ultrasound shows you:
1. trouble shoot the venous return curve [i.e. too little blood volume, too little venous tone, too high resistance to venous return]
2. trouble shoot the cardiac function [i.e. poor rate, rhythm, contractility, valve function, biventricular afterload]
If you need some objective measure of blood volume before you can call volume status optimized before moving onto the next problem to fix – that’s a radio-labeled albumin.
Maybe I’m crazy.cheers
Thanks for commenting Jon!
I totally agree, if we knew each patient’s normal blood volume, that would be a starting point. And of course, that would prevent the over resuscitation of a very dilated and compliant venous system (small IVC on ultrasound). Let us know if you figure out a practical way to do that!
It’s too bad that extravascular lung water doesn’t seem to have panned out – not sure why exactly.
Well, at least this is chosen with good knowledge of its pharmacological properties, right?
Hmmm… 57% peg it as physiological or basic. Only 9% get it right. The pH is 5.6 or so.
So here we have favorite medication used by a lot of people, who use a lot of it, usually in quite ill patients, often acidotic, and who are not aware that the pH is in fact also quite acidotic.
I think it just is an important example on how we need to treat fluids as medications, and not think of them as benign interventions, and by doing so, we’d feel much more obliged to look at what we are giving in terms of composition and quantity, rather than the debonair attitude we have mostly grown up with.
So here, Jon-Emile and I explore a topic I’ve posted about before (http://wp.me/p1avUV-bd) so I can see if a master physiologist agrees with my rationale (…not just my rationale but supported by a ton of literature many choose to overlook!).
I gotta give a shout out to the #FOAMed world. The last year and a half has been really stimulating, learning from and exchanging with an amazing cohort of peers, all striving towards self-improvement and saving a few extra lives. I’m also really thankful for all those who take a few minutes of their busy days to read or listen to some of the stuff I spew out, and truly appreciate comments and discussion.
Undeniably #FOAMed has made me a better doc, both from the standpoint of learning and inspiration, which is really the fuel behind continuing education. I’ve been involved in organizing events, and in fact, doing so, and the interaction with both the faculty and the participants has been, in and of itself, of immense worth in terms of motivation and a feeling of kinship to a like-minded group, which I think is very important to practicing physicians.
As a consequence of some of these #FOAMed introductions, some good things are in the planning stages for 2015.
Winter: check out BEEM january 26-28 out in Vancouver BC – I can’t make that but really wish I could.
Spring: Two really interesting events in collaboration with l’ASMIQ (Association des Specialistes en Medicine Interne du Quebec – Quebec internists), one being a half day on Shock & Resus (may 30th), and a full day on Lung Ultrasound (may 29th) featuring the grandfather of it all, guru Dr. Daniel Lichtenstein, the one who invented it (well…discovered it, technically). Both take place in Montreal. (Technically this is for ASMIQ members but if anyone is interested, let me know and I’ll see what I can do!)
Summer? I’m not running anything, but definitely going to SMACC Chicago. Just go. ‘Nuff said. http://www.smacc.net.au.
Fall:Ken Milne (@TheSGEM) and I will be planning a really cool day combining a critical appraisal workshop and a review of acute care highlights, taking place in Montreal in the fall. Ken will teach us how to learn while being skeptical, and participants should leave with an important skill as well as a headful of practical knowledge. We don’t have a title for this yet but I’ll be sure to let you know! In the meantime be sure to check out Ken’s awesome stuff at http://www.thesgem.com. He keeps it real.
I’ve also been asked to organize an Ultrasound Simulation Workshop (we are doing an EchoSchockSim in CCUS 2015), which may also happen towards the end of the year.
Ok, so that was just a bit of an update on what’s up in the next year. Hope to meet some of you at these events, do come and say hi!
So I posted about this a few weeks ago, and the discussion it brought up with Jon-Emile (www.heart-lung.org) turned out to be way better than the original post, and I just wanted to make sure everyone interested got to see it, so here we go (part 1 is here, for those who didn’t come across it:http://wp.me/p1avUV-bJ):
Jon-Emile: This is a great topic for review Philippe!
I have come across this problem, certainly on more than one occasion. I was first introduced to the idea of renal venous pressure and renal hemodynamics as a house-officer at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Dr. Jerome Lowenstein published work on this phenomenon as it pertained to ‘Minimal Change Syndrome.” He used to ‘wedge’ the renal vein and measure renal interstitial pressure in these patients and measured the response to diuresis. It was very enlightening and made me feel more comfortable given more diuretics in such patients. [Am J Med. 1981 Feb;70(2):227-33. Renal failure in minimal change nephrotic syndrome].
I am also glad that you bring up the cranial vault in this discussion, because I have often wondered if the encapsulated kidneys behave in a similar way. That is, as renal interstitial volume increases from edema, if there is some point on their compliance curve [like the cranium] where there is a very marked increase in renal interstitial pressure? I have found a few articles which loosely address this idea, but would be interested if anyone else knew of some. In such a situation, there would be a ‘vascular waterfall’ effect within the kidneys whereby the interstitial pressure supersedes the renal venous pressure [like West Zone II in the lungs]; then, renal blood flow would be driven by a gradient between MAP and renal interstitial pressure [not renal venous pressure]. I know of one paper that addresses this physiology in dogs, and finds the vascular ‘choke point’ to be in the renal venous system and not Bowman’s space.
What’s even more interesting, is that when renal interstitial pressure is elevated is that the kidney behaves in a sodium avid state [i.e. urine electrolytes will appear ‘pre-renal’] and this physiology has been known for at least a century!
Lancet. 1988 May 7;1(8593):1033-5. Raised venous pressure: a direct cause of renal sodium retention in oedema?
There is no good explanation as to why this occurs, but one I read is that the high renal interstitial pressure tends to collapse the afferent arteriole and the decrease in afferent arteriole trans-mural pressure which facilitates renin secretion [just like low blood pressure would]; but that would require a fairly high renal interstitial pressure unless the MAP was concomitantly low.
Again, what I must caution [and I’ve been personally wrong about this] is the reflex to give diuretics when seeing a ‘plump IVC’. When I was treating a woman with mild collagen-vascular-related pulmonary arterial hypertension, community-acquired pneumonia with a parapneumonic effusion and new acute renal failure, I assessed her IVC with ultrasound. It was plump an unvarying. I lobbied the nephrologist to try diruesis based on the aforementioned reasoning, but was very wrong. Her kidneys took a hit with lasix. What got her kidneys better was rehydration. In the end, what happened was her mild PAH raised her venous pressure and the hypoxemic vaso-constrction from her new pnuemonia only made that worse. Her right heart pressures, venous pressure and probably renal venous pressure were undoubtedly high. But I didn’t take into consideration her whole picture. She had a bad infection, had large insensible losses and had not been eating and drinking. She was hypovolemic, no doubt, despite her high right heart pressures. Fortunately, her pneumonia resolved and fluids brought her kidneys back to baseline.
Thanks again for another thought-provoking topic
Me: Great points as usual Jon, and your last one brings up a bit of a concern I have always had. To play devil’s advocate, one could argue that it may have been resolution of the pneumonia and its metabolic sequelae and possibly other treatment that resulted in improvement of her renal failure, rather than the fluid, no? Did her hypoxia resolution decrease PAP back to normal – with IVC dynamics restoring – and relief of renal congestion, and improvement “despite” fluid?
To me, fluid administration must – at least transiently – increase CO to have any effect on the perfusion side. To do so, my understanding is that it has to go from right to left. Because of the pericardium and interdependence, if RAP exceeds LVEDP, we will start to impair LV preload, which sets up the vicious cycle of a shrinking LV and growing RV. If we can’s increase our RT heart output, obviously our LV CO headed to the kidneys can’t increase either. Hence the assumption would have to be that somehow this additional fluid can – by increasing RV preload (without increasing RV size and further impinging LV?) – help overcome elevated PAP and increase right to left flow. To me, hard to believe without a pericardiectomy (on a short time frame, naturally). Hence I struggle with understanding how a really plump IVC with little variation (if significant pleural pressure variation is occurring) can really still need fluid.
I’d really, really like to get your comments on this. I’ve had a number of conversations about this with people – some of them pretty bright – but none satisfying. Am hoping you can point out my flawed thinking.
Jon-Emile: Philippe, you ask very good questions. Your first point is quite valid. I think we have a bias of assigning meaning to a particular intervention because we think that particular intervention will work. For the patient I treated, we administered multiple drugs [oxygen, antibiotics, bronchodilators, we may have even given a dose of steroids] and yet I assign meaning to the fluids given. I think in all patients with complex hemodynamics that there are multiple co-varying interventions that all [hopefully] push the patient in the right direction – making it quite hard to grant significance to one in particular. Yet in the patient I treated, the timing with respect to creatinine change and urine output made it very hard to argue in favor of diuresis. We were checking her creatinine fairly regularly as she was in step-down and we were concerned about the trajectory of her illness. With lasix, her creatinine jumped abruptly on the following chemistry while with fluids, creatinine dropped and her urine output really picked up.
Which brings me to Ulrich’s point. It is well-taken and I hope to have a pulmccm post on this shortly. While the CVP does not have any correlation with volume status or volume responsiveness as you point out, the physiology of the CVP can help explain confusing echocardiographic findings.
All a plump, unvarying IVC with spontaneous inspiration means [if you believe the Guyton, or Magder approach] is that the IVC transmural pressure is remaining on the flat portion of its compliance curve during inspiration.
In other words, the IVC is at such high volume [on the flat portion] that lowering its transmural pressure [lowering the CVP, raising the intra-abdominal pressure or both] does not cause it to shrink in volume.
The question then becomes why is the IVC in this state? And a great analysis to this question is to consider the determinants of great vein volume [which really is a question of great vein/right atrial pressure or the CVP – which is related to volume by compliance].
There are two primary processes which will raise great vein volume and these flow from the Guyton Diagram 1. excessive venous return 2. poor cardiac function or a combination thereof [its really just inflow versus outflow]. Volume status plays one part of venous return, so certainly, if someone is hugely fluid overloaded, their venous return will be enhanced and this will favour a high great vein volume and high great vein pressure, BUT this will be mediated by cardiac function because if the heart can eject the large venous return it is receiving, then the great vein pressure and volume won’t change or may be low. Conversely, if cardiac function is poor, a patient could have a low venous return [e.g. be hypovolemic or euvolemic] and still have a high great vein volume and pressure – simply, because the heart can’t expel from the thorax what little venous return it receives. Importantly, poor cardiac function can mean almost anything [valve dysfunction, tachycardia with arrhythmia, high afterload, poor contractility, etc.].
To me, the above is the true value of thinking about Guyton and the CVP, so when I approach a patient, I try to think about what their venous return curve looks like [by a clinical exam] and I use a TTE to actually see what their heart function looks like [and to me this is the true power of ICU TTE]. The above also explains why CVP simply cannot be a marker of volume status.
In the patient I was treating, her history and physical really suggested poor venous return [she was clearly with a pneumonia, hadn’t been eating and was euvolemic to dry on examination] yet her great vein volume was high on TTE which meant that her cardiac function was most likely poor [on the Guyton Diagram her low venous return curve would be intersecting a very low, flattened cardiac function curve such that shifts with intra-thoracic pressure would not change right heart pressure at all].
But why was her heart function poor? Why could her right heart not eject what little inflow it was receiving? It was probably a combination of things. The pneumonia probably increased right heart afterload which caused some TR, she was tachycardic so wasn’t getting optimal filling time, she was septic with perhaps some underlying cardiomyopathy, perhaps her diastolic blood pressure was lower than normal [she was an elderly lady with likely stiff arteries] and she wasn’t perfusing her right coronary artery well and was suffering from relative ishcemia] it’s certainly is a lot of hand-waving, but all taken together perhaps plausible.
The antibiotics improved her lung function as did the bronchodilators which lowered pulmonary vascular resistance which improved right heart forward flow, maybe the inhaled beta-agonists increased her contractility, maybe the oxygen also lowered her pulmonary vascular resistance, maybe the steroids sensitized her to catechols and this raised her blood pressure and coronary perfusion pressure which improved her right heart function, but also maybe the fluids? Empirically, and in retrospect, venodilating her with lasix probably really lowered her venous return and this crashed what little cardiac reserve she had. It was improving her venous return with fluids that helped.
Sorry if this post is getting too long …
In terms of ventricular interdependence [an excellent, under-appreciated point in the ICU] I think that you have to be very careful extrapolating whether or not this effect is present from an IVC examination. In a classic paper [that caused much consternation at the time] Pinsky found that right atrial pressure was completely uncoupled from right ventricular end-diastolic volume [why the CVP is a poor indicator of volume responsiveness]. Her is a recent review of that paper by Pinsky himself.
The take home is that while right atrial volume and pressure [and by corollary great vein volume and pressure] can be high, this may not translate to a right ventricle near its elastic limit. Pinsky offers no good explanation as to why this is, but postulates that it may have to do with the complex RV geometry and how this changes during diastole. So until there is a widely accepted means of assessing RV filling with TTE [like an Ea ratio] which could pick up a restricted filling pattern, this is really hard to call on echo. As you are aware, you could look for a flattened septum or D sign during diastole, but I’m not sure how well that sign predicts a patient’s response to a fluid challenge – it certainly screams caution.
This Pinsky paper also highlights a potential disconnect between the physiology proximal to the tricuspid valve and the physiology below it which is also part of my general reluctance to use IVC volume change as a marker of fluid responsiveness, just as I have total reluctance to use CVP [or its change with respiration] as a marker of fluid responsiveness.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time it comes down to ‘guess and check’ – give fluids or give lasix and see what happens. This is why I firmly believe that determining volume status and volume responsiveness are the hands-down hardest party of ICU medicine.
If you’re still reading, I hope this helps.
One more point. I don’t think I gave a full explanation to one of your questions. Please bear with me as this is exceptionally hard to explain with words [indeed why I made heart-lung.org].
The venous return and cardiac function curves are essentially inverse of each other [that is lowering right atrial pressure increases venous inflow but decreases cardiac outflow] so they approximate the letter X [venous return is the \ and cardiac function is the / & the point at which the two lines intersect make up the CVP and defines cardiac output].
If you consider the patient I described, If we assume her venous return is low [because she is venodilated from sepsis and hypovolemic from low PO] then the venous return curve [\] is shifted leftwards. If we assume her cardiac function is poor the cardiac function curve slope [/] is shifted down and to the right.
When she takes a breath in, the lowering of intrathoracic pressure pulls the cardiac function curve leftwards [lowers its pressure relative to venous return] while the increase in in abdominal pressure with diaphragm decent tends to temporarily increase venous return by decreasing abdominal venous capacitance. This effect shifts the venous return curve in a rightward manner.
If the patient’s venous return curve initially intersects the ascending portion of the cardiac function curve [i.e. she is truly volume responsive] BUT, the intersection is very near the plateau of the cardiac function curve [i.e. the portion of the cardiac function curve that will render the patient non-volume responsive and also favour unvarying respiratory change in right atrial pressure/volume with inspiration], THEN with inspiration it is possible to see the intersection of the two curves on the flat portion of the cardiac function curve [as the cardiac function curve is pulled leftwards and the venous return curve is pushed rightwards], even though she does have some cardiac preload reserve. This would be an example of impaired specificity of IVC volume change with spontaneous inspiratory effort as a predictor of volume unresponsiveness [i.e. a false positive for a plump IVC predicting the lack of fluid responsiveness].
I address this physiology in chapter 6 parts C and D and chapter 8 part F.
Me: Very, very interesting. I think this discussion, as many, show how medicine is not a “hard science” but remains a “pseudo-science”, inherent to the fact that we are blending physics, chemistry, biology and cannot really apply simple principles of flow and pressures when dealing with elastic, muscular systems lined with microscopic coating whose compliance and resistance change from moment to moment and thru effect of neural and hormonal influence. There are simply too many unmeasurable variables to come up with single guidelines and rules.
I think, as you say, that there remains a need for some degree of trial and error, that we are hopefully narrowing with the appropriate application of technology and proper data integration.
I’ll percolate all this and see how I can tweak my mental model!