POCUS & Venous Congestion – A Clinical Case Discussion with Rory Spiegel (@EMnerd_), #FOAMed, #FOAMus, #FOAMcc

Hi, so as a follow up to our earlier discussion, which can be found here, Rory and I discuss a recent case he had, which I think exemplifies well many of the clinical conundrums that are seen in fluid resuscitation, one being the general resistance of many to diurese patients who are still in shock on vasopressors, instead preferring to (hopefully) wait until shock resolution to de-resuscitate. But sometimes, it is exactly what they need, as some of this congestion may be, in fact, a cause of shock…

Here you go:

Love to hear opinions, so feel free to reach out.


For those who may be interested at learning some of these POCUS skills, check out H&R2018 (#Hres2018)!





The Hospitalist & The Resuscitationist. Montreal, April 18th & 19th, 2018. #Hres2018

So for this winter, we’ve put together a little gem of a conference which will be a mix of hospitalist and critical care medicine, both with a dash of POCUS for good measure. Our focus here will be short, to the point, highly relevant and highly physiological talks on key topics, in short, 15 minute talks.

What are we going to talk about?

Day 1: The Hospitalist


Day 2: The Resuscitationist



You can figure there will also be late-breakers, “ask the crowd” talks and more.

Workshops? Sure:

Yup. You can ask for a workshop. Enough similar requests will probably make it happen. A few have already asked for Neuro-POCUS, so that is a likely addition.


So, who will be talking?  The lineup already includes Andre Denault, Josh Farkas (@Pulmcrit), Jon-Emile Kenny (@heart_lung), Rory Spiegel (@EMnerd), Hussein Fadlallah, Peter Barriga, Daniel Kaud, Davide Maggio, Michael Palumbo, William Beaubien-Souligny, and a few more to confirm. And who knows who might do an impromptu drop-in…


The short answer is yes. Of course, it does depend on what you do. If you are a hospitalist, involved in critical care or acute care of any kinds, you will find something here for you. Totally awesome for IM residents/FM residents planning on doing some hospital medicine or ICU coverage. Who will get the most bang for his or her buck here? Real docs training or working in the trenches. This isn’t a cutting edge research conference, but a cutting edge clinical application conference.


Oh yes, and the CME, of course:


This will be a small, fun conference. Space is purposely limited, for an intimate feel and to encourage discussion between peers. No need for these exclusive “meet-the-professor lunch” or anything like that: that’s what the whole event is like!


Registration is open! Print, fill, write a cheque and send the form below:


If you’re crazy busy, or have any questions, feel free to email hospresusconference@gmail.com or tweet (@ThinkingCC) to reserve a spot! 

Download the brochure here:

H&R2018 Brochure – Participants




The H&R 2018 Scientific & Organizing Committee:

Dr. Philippe St-Arnaud – ER and Critical Care doc, POCUS instructor and constantly pushing the clinical envelope.

Dr. Carola Zambrana – our Hospitalist on the panel, constantly seeking excellence in care and working on bringing POCUS to the wards.

Dr. Mario Rizzi – our friendly neighborhood respirologist and educator.

Dr. Philippe Rola – Critical Care doc, long time POCUS aficionado and instructor, working at bringing POCUS into the everyday physical exam.


Fluid Stop Points! More POCUS goodness from Korbin Haycock. #FOAMed, #FOAMcc

I am really enjoying this exchange, and I think it is in the true spirit of #FOAMed to foster these discussions, as we have the opportunity to combine and fine tune our understanding of a topic from several really bright people’s view and experience. 


Jon-Emile, excellent points and insight. I should clarify a couple of my comments. To be specific, by “renal vein flow” I am referring to intra-renal venous flow. Apologies for my imprecision! Thanks for pointing that out.

Yes, a lot of these renal and portal Doppler patterns are surrogates of CVP. But I don’t think any of us would use CVP in isolation these days to make any decision what-so-ever on whether fluids were indicated in our patient.

Also, to clarify, I am not using intra-renal venous flow or renal resistive index as measures of non-fluid responsiveness. Rather, I use these measures as a stop point for attempting to solve the patient’s hemodynamic dysfunction with crystalloid regardless of whether or not my straight leg test tells me the patient is still fluid responsive.

And that is a key re-iteration to me. It is important to set these stop points and not only look at whether the cardiac output can be maximized. This has been tried. And failed. Let’s remember that sepsis is not inherently a disease of low flow. It isn’t cardiogenic or hypovolemic shock at the core.

My rationale for the strategy of using intra-renal Doppler, E/e’, and Lung US (now, I can include portal vein pulsatility) as a stop point for IVF administration is that I think the patient is best served to avoid iatrogenic edema of the upstream organs, primarily the lungs and the kidneys. These are the two organs (maybe you could put the endothelium in this category as well–glycocalyx being a whole other can of worms!) most easily damaged by the chase for optimizing every bit of fluid responsiveness. We have good evidence that getting wet lungs and swollen, congested kidneys is a bad thing, and we have these tools to hopefully warn us when we are pushing things too far.

Absolutely. And the whole glycocalyx is something to keep in mind, even if only to me mindful to disrupt it as little as possible.

Of course renal resistive index, intra-renal venous flow, portal vein pulsativity, and whatever else you like will have limitations and confounders. As long as you understand what can cause abnormalities with these tools, you can make an educated guess as to what’s going on. If our creatinine is off and our RRI is high, but intra-renal venous flow and portal vein flow is normal, perhaps the RRI is caused by something other than renal congestion, like ATN. If the portal vein is pulsatile, but the Doppler patterns of the hepatic vein, kidney and the heart look ok, maybe something else is wrong with the liver. But, if all our modalities are in agreement and pointing to congestion, we should perhaps believe that it’s congestion and stop the fluids. 

That is an awesome approach to integrating RRI. I’ve been toying with it for the last couple of days, and much thanks to Korbin, I think that the limitations of RRI can be overcome by using the rest of our clinical and POCUS data.

It isn’t a hard technique, though in some patients getting a good signal can be tricky.

I think that the kidney, being an encapsulated organ, and the fact that much of our crystalloid ends up as interstitial edema, the kidney will develop sub-optimal flow patterns before CVP would cause congestion. The same is true regarding the lung, except that it’s just related to increased pulmonary permeability due to inflammation. Regardless, the idea is to save organs, and the earlier you can detect the problem, the sonner you can stop battering the more delicate organs with fluid.

As I think we have all mentioned, you really have to look at the whole picture, and put it together to tell the story of what is wrong, so we can logically and thoughtfully treat our patients.

I really appreciate this discussion. Thanks!



Thanks to Andre, Jon and Korbin for making this very educative for all!





ps don’t miss the POCUS Workshops on venous assessment at  !!!

Portal Vein POCUS: A Reader’s Case and a Follow-Up to the Denault Discussion

So I’ve been meaning to post a follow up and discussion about portal vein POCUS and how I am integrating it so far, and a few days ago I got a really interesting comment from Dr. Korbin Haycock, and I think it’s got some awesome elements to discuss.

Before we get into it, I would invite anyone reading this to go listen to the original Denault Track here, without which this discussion would be missing some elements.

What we are looking at here is the physiological assessment of venous congestion, and how doppler interrogation of the portal vein may help us. So here is Korbin’s case, and I will interject (in bold) where I think a point can be made, or at least my thoughts on it.

“Awesome post. Awesome website. I had never heard about portal vein pulsatility until reading your blog. I have previously been looking at the renal resistive index and renal vein Doppler pattern in my hypotensive/shock patients (along with doing a bedside ECHO and POCUS pulmonary exam) to guide when to stop fluid resuscitiation.

Very impressive. I have only ever heard of a handful of resuscitationists looking at this (including Andre, and consequently myself) so I’m gonna have to have a chat with this fellow soon! For those who have not tried or are not familiar, some basic info can be found here. I’ll have to review this, but I think one issue with RI is that there is an associated ddx, so that without knowledge of baseline, I would not be certain how to use it. Renal vein doppler seems very interesting to me, as that venous path is the one of the cardiorenal syndrome (forget about all that “low flow” nonsense in CHF – not in shock – patients), and there is clearly bad prognosis associated with abnormal (discontinuous) flow patterns. Here is a really good study (Iida et al)  and its editorial (Tang).

Iida Doppler_CHF Heart Failure JACCHF 2016

Tang Editorial JACCHF 2016

I had a case last night that I think illustrates that fluid administration can be the wrong thing to do in some septic shock patients. Plus, I got to try something new and look at the portal vein for pulsatility.

My case was a gentleman in his late 60’s with a history of HTN, atrial fibrillation and HFrEF who presented with three days for a productive cough and fever. POC lactate was 2.7. His HR was 130-140’s, in atrial fibrillation, febrile, MAP was 50, and he looked a bit shocky and was diaphoretic. The resident had started antibiotics and a fluid bolus of LR, of which not much had gone in (maybe 200cc) when I came to start a night shift and evaluated the patient. I asked that the fluids be stopped until we could have a look at him.

His IVC was about 1.5-2 cm with >50% collapsibility.

So I’m gonna hit the pause button right there for a couple of comments. That’s not a hypovolemic IVC. The RAP may be raised by some of the  It may very well be volume responsive, but I think the first thing to go for is correcting that tachycardia. The antibiotics are definitely the right call, but the fluids should, in my opinion, be held until assessment for volume tolerance is done.

His LV looked to have some mildly decreased EF and was going very fast. RV looked normal. His average SV was 45, CO was 6.1, E/e’ ratio indicated a slightly elevated left atrial pressure. His estimated/calculated SVR by the ECHO numbers was about 550. Lungs were dry anteriorly, without B-lines, but PLAPS view was c/w bilateral lower lobe PNA. Renal vein Doppler was biphasic and the resistive index was very high. I looked at his portal vein and it was pulsatile.

Excellent. So there is pulmonary pathology, which makes fluid tolerance already of concern. The CO is certainly adequate and SVR is low, suggesting a vasodilatory shock etiology. 

In the past, based on the IVC and the way the RV looked, I would have done a straight leg raise or given a given some crystalloid to see if his SV and BP improved, and if it did, give some IVF. Instead, I told the staff to given no more fluids and I gave him 20 mg of diltiazem.

His heart rate decreased from 130-140’s to 90. His averaged SV increased to 65 (probably due to increased LV filling time and better diastolic perfusion time), CO was 5.9, estimated SVR was 570. The renal and portal vein Doppler were unchanged. The MAP didn’t bulge and stayed low at 50-55. At this point I ordered furosemide and but him on a norepinephrine infusion to increase the SVR, first at 5 mcg/min, then 7 mcg/min.

Totally awesome to see. It isn’t unusual for me to diurese patients in vasopressor-dependant shock, as more and more data is emerging on how venous congestion has deleterious effects on the gut and may even contribute to the SIRS-type state. And once a patient is in a euvolemic to hypervolemic state, the only fluid they get from me is the one containing norepinephrine. Maintenance fluid is not for critically ill patients IMO.

The NE gtt increased his MAP to 75 mmHg. His SV was 80, CO 7.1 (I was a little surprised it didn’t go down a bit), estimated SVR was 700. I had his labs back at this point and his creatinine was 1.8 and the last creatinine we had was 1.1 a few months ago. His renal vein pattern was still biphasic and his renal resistive index was also still quite high at 0.89, which would probably predict a significant kidney injury in 2-3 days.

Even though his MAP and hemodynamics looked great, I was worried about the renal resistive index. I ordered a little more furosemide and started him on a little bit of a vasopressin infusion. After things settled down, MAP was 75-80, his average SV was 80, CO 7.3, estimated SVR was about 800, and his renal resistive index (RRI) was 0.75. He looked much better too. The second lactate was 1.3.

Very interesting to see the drop in RRI.  Great case to show how you don’t need to chase lactate with fluids. That is an antiquated knee-jerk reflex hinging on the concept that hyperlactatemia is primarily due to tissue hypoperfusion, which we have learned is not the main cause. 

This morning his creatinine had improved to 1.3 and he is doing well.

South of your border, CMS considers me a bad doctor for not giving 30 cc/kg crystalloid as a knee jerk reaction and instead giving a diuretic and early vasopressors as we did in this patient. Just looking at his IVC would indicate that IVF would be a reasonable strategy. If I had done a SLR or fluid challenge and found him fluid responsive, in the past, I would be temped to chase every bit of fluid response with pushing more fluids, but the renal and portal vein Doppler made me stop fluids in this patient this time. I think this example illustrates the importance of looking at each of your patients on a case by case basis and looking at the whole picture (heart, lungs, kidneys, now portal system too for me!), rather than following protocols.



So then, Andre decides to chime in as well:

Very interesting but be careful about the interpretation of portal pulsatility because it can be falsely positive particularly in hyperdynamic young patient, which was may be not the case. We published an algorithm in order to identify the true portal pulsatility associated with right heart failure and fluid overload and a normal portal vein with pulsatility:

Tremblay Portal pulsatility Flolan Mil AACR 2017

(Tremblay 2017 A&A care report) A & A Case Reports. 9(8):219–223, OCT 2017 DOI: 10.1213/XAA.0000000000000572 , PMID: 28604468)

The latter will be associated with normal RV even hyperdynamic, normal hepatic venous and renal flow, normal IVC. We still need to explore the significance of portal hypertension outside the area of cardiac surgery where we are finalizing our studies.

Always tell my residents and fellow, treat the patient and not the number or the image. That being said, the patient got better so cannot argue with success.

So I think this is a really important point, that it can become dangerous in POCUS to look for a simple, single-factor “recipe” with which to manage the patient, when in fact you can have many factors which, integrated, can give you a much better understanding about your patient’s pathophysiology.

My take on portal vein POCUS so far is that it is a marker of critical venous congestion, beyond simply a plethoric IVC. I think it is wise to stop fluids before the plethoric IVC, but a plethoric IVC with a pulsatile PV should bring fluids to a screeching halt and some decongestive therapy started. The data for this?  Andre is cooking it up, but in the meantime, there is plenty of evidence that congestion is plenty bad, and NO evidence that maximizing CO works at all, so I am very comfortable in witholding fluids and diuresing these patients. 

For fun, here is a little figure from Tang et al about the doppler patterns discussed.

Love to hear everyone’s thoughts!

and for those interested, there will be a workshop run by Andre and myself on this at :

more to come on this soon…




The Resuscitation Tracks 1: Portal Vein POCUS with Dr. Andre Denault. #FOAMed, #FOAMcc, #FOAMus

So this is one of the key discussions I wanted to have in my process of synthesizing my resuscitation algorithm. Dr. Denault is the one guy I’d call a mentor, and I think one of the rare and true clinician-scholar, who is just as comfortable being the anaesthetist/intensivist at the bedside of the crashing patient as he is being the keynote speaker in major conferences, or writing the textbooks that lead the field in acute care/perioperative TEE and critical care POCUS.

So to put some perspective to this discussion, back in 2014 I organized a resuscitation afternoon for internists with Andre and another awesome guy you probably all know, Haney Mallemat (@criticalcarenow). In a quick 15 minute discussion between talks, he shared with me the most recent of his discoveries, portal vein POCUS as a marker of right-sided failure/volume overload in his post-op cardiac patients, and how aggressively managing these resulted in much improved post-operative courses in terms of weaning, vasopressors and even delirium.

Interesting stuff.

So here you are:

So I’ll let you all ponder that and I would really like to hear comments and ideas. Sometime in the next few weeks I’ll be finalizing my resus algorithm – which will not be a recipe approach, as you might suspect if you have been following this blog, and will rely heavily on POCUS and the clinical exam.

cheers and thanks for reading and listening!

Don’t miss Andre running a POCUS workshop on PV/HV at  next april!



MOPOCUS: A great synopsis by Ha & Toh. #FOAMed, #FOAMcc, #FOAMus

Just came across this review and figured I should share. The authors make a great synopsis and review of POCUS in acute illness:

MOPOCUS Review by Ha &To

The only thing I would add to this is a more physiological way to assess the IVC, which I’ve blogged about here.  Sadly, I’ve heard a few people stating how they didn’t want to get into the dogma of IVC ultrasound, that it wasn’t reliable, etc.  The IVC doesn’t lie. It’s just not a recipe. The IVC findings have to be integrated into the rest of the echo graphic and clinical examination.  Trying to use it as a single value is akin to using serum Na+ as a diagnostic test for volume. It works only sometimes.

Please spread among the POCUS non-believers. We’ll convert them, slowly but surely. But the sooner, the better for the patients. Again, there’s no excuse to practice acute care without ultrasound. It’s not right. I’m not saying every probe-toting MD is better than one without, but everyone would up their game by adding POCUS, once past the learning curve!




Tom Woodcock: The Revised Starling Principle and The Glycocalyx! #FOAMed, #FOAMcc

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 11.57.11 PM

So today, I had the chance of having a private tutorial with Dr. Thomas Woodcock (@thomaswoodcock) about the glycocalyx and the revised Starling principles.  For anyone interested in fluid resuscitation, this is an area you have to delve into. The basic principles we all learned (which are still being taught) are basically the physiological equivalent of the stick man we all started drawing as toddlers: overly simplified and far from an accurate representation of reality.

Now my first disclaimer is that I have been a colloid supporter for many years. My physiological logic for that had been to minimize the crystalloid spillover into inflamed/septic areas, particularly the lungs and abdomen, when those are the septic sources. However, I was likely misled by my education and lack of knowledge about the endothelium.

So I stumbled upon the whole glycocalyx thing a couple years ago, and this prompted me to try more enteral fluids – the only way fluids normally ever enter the vasculature – but little else. Aware that it’s there, but unsure what to do about it.

Now a year and a half ago, Andre Denault, my closest thing to a mentor, casually dropped the line to me about albumin not working. “Don’t use it. It doesn’t act the way we think it does.”  But it was a brief chat, and I didn’t get to pick his brain about it.  Just a few weeks ago, I discuss with Jon Emile (Kenny), and he’s coming to the same conclusion.  Damn. I’m finding it a bit harder to hang on to my albumin use, which is beginning to look a bit dogmatic and religious.

Here is Jon-Emile’s take on it – a must-read.

Here is Tom Woodcock’s site and article – another must-read.

And here is my discussion (in two parts) with Tom (to skip the silence, skip forward to about 30 seconds into each – sorry my editing skills are limited!)


Bottom line?

Probably stick to isotonic crystalloids, and some hypertonics.


Love to hear some thoughts!