Kylie & Korbin chime in to the Venous Congestion Issue. #FOAMed, #FOAMcc, #FOAMus

So I think much of the awesomeness of #FOAMed is sparking discussion and exchange, and the many little steps in clinical management besides the initial prescriptions. So I thought I would highlight and exploit a couple of really interesting reader comments:

So first, Kylie (@kyliebaker888):

Great to listen guys, thanks, and very timely. I had just read Tremblay’s paper after coming across a very pulsatile PV in a relatively well elderly patient with bad TR. Two questions – which PV are more likely pulsatile in the first place….Tremblay mentions RVF/TR and very thin folk. What is your experience?
Second Question – what did the GB wall/GB fossa look like after the initial very positive fluid balance? Does everyone blow out their GB wall with fluids, or only some?

It is always important to isolate the patients’ whose physiology may change the clinical signs (in this case PV pulsatility) and make their interpretation different. I agree that massive TR, especially chronic, would likely account for pulsatility. I am not certain about the physiology for the very thin patient, but I have heard the same thing from Andre.  So my personal take on a patient with severe TR and a pulsatile PV would be to look at the IVC variation, TR notwithstanding, if it is fixed and plethoric I would diurese – the organs don’t care what the cause of the congestion is.  

As for the GB, I have also seen edema, and then try to correlate with cholestatic enzyme changes that would be out of proportion to the hepatocellular enzymes if there is a primary GB process. This is certainly an imperfect science. In a critically ill septic patient, I have a low threshold to drain the GB if in doubt.

Then Korbin gives his two cents, and then some! 

Great case, loved it. Thoughtful management, brilliant!

I couldn’t help thinking as I listened, that it is so important to avoid over-resuscitation with fluids in the first place. We all know that the majority of crystalloids given will end up as interstitial edema, so any benefit from the increase in stroke volume is temporary at best (consider carefully what you gain and at what cost). Wet lungs=increased mortality, days on the vent, and ICU stays. Wet kidneys=AKI 2-3 days after initial resuscitation and potential RRT. Congested liver=gut edema and continuation of inflammatory cytokines/sepsis syndrome. Too much fluids–>BNP levels rise, high BNP levels in the presence of LPS=glycocalyx shedding, and more interstitial edema everywhere.

Cannot agree more.

I think there is some decent evidence that an early fluid liberal approach combined with a late fluid restrictive approach can potentially benefit a patient in septic shock, but its clear that an overall positive fluid balance does harm. Perhaps, even the early fluid liberal strategy (in sepsis specifically) should be tempered by a careful consideration of what is really going on.

My take here is that, by using POCUS, there is no need for a “general approach.” POCUS takes essentially no time. In about 5 seconds you can confirm a small IVC that can (initially) take fluid, a medium one (that you need to watch) or a full one (yes, it happens – that gets no fluid). So to me there is no need to have a pre-determined approach…

Sepsis is an entity characterized by venous return being limited by a decrease in mean systemic pressure (MSP) due to an increase in venous capacitance, rather than a decrease in fluids that generates the stressed volume (MSP=fluid filling/venous capacitance). The body compensates with an adrenergic response that maintains (or attempts to maintain) MAP by an increase in a catecholamine driven augmentation in cardiac output/contractility. This adrenergic response likely has more to do with the increase in lactate production observed in sepsis, rather than actual tissue hypo-perfusion and anaerobic metabolism mechanism. Increases in CVP inhibit venous return and congest the kidneys and GI tract (the left atrial pressures are the equivalent problem for the lungs, combined with the fact that pulmonary vascular permeability is increased in sepsis as well). Given this, I think in distributive shock, we should fix the lack of MSP by an earlier vasopressor therapy approach, both to supplement and decrease the crystalloid load to the patient, which is un-natural and contrary to their deranged septic physiology.


Also, could the type of crystalloid given be important? NS gives a considerable sodium load compared to LR, and this likely promotes/sustains fluid retention that is difficult to remove during de-resuscitation. The high chloride levels of NS will promote an increase afferent arteriolar vasoconstriction and thus decrease GFR, making it more difficult to diuresis the patient later on, and contribute to AKI beyond the iatrogenic interstitial kidney edema caused by the crystalloids we gave.

Absolutely. NS is given by medical peeps only by cultural habit. Most do not know the pH (zero SID due to chloride) of  a solution they give by the buckets. RL is the best option I have available.

If you are involved in the early phase of resuscitation of a shocked patient, consider the downstream consequences of your fluid strategy that you give your patient that may give you a temporary comfort because they will look better in the short term.

Dr. Maitland and the FEAST study corroborates exactly this.

This is not to say that an aggressive and upfront resuscitation is not critical–it surely is. I’m saying resuscitate smarter, not wetter. Look for stop points for crystalloids–E/e’ ratios, consider PVPI, RV dilation/TAPSE, hepatic vein doppler, IVC dynamics, portal vein pulsatility, intra-renal venous Doppler patterns and renal resistive index. Fix the hemodynamics from an approach of the root of their problem, rather than pushing fluids for every hypotensive patient (whether you are taking care of them early, or late in the time frame of their illness). Fluids do have their place, but be careful and cognizant of their real down side. Look at your patient, think it through, and make the best actions for them.

Ok, now I don’t even get to have a punchline. Thanks Korbin!

So if this interests you, tune in to The Great Fluid Debate at H&R2018, and I look forward to meeting both Kylie and Korbin who will be in attendance and, I’m sure, putting us all on the spot!

And yes, there will be a POCUS workshop on portal and hepatic vein POCUS.

click here if you want to take part: H&R2018




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 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  !!!

A Discussion on Fluid Management Protocols with Rory Spiegel. #FOAMed, #FOAMcc, #POCUS


So Rory (@EMnerd) is in the process of working on a fluid resus protocol for Shock-Trauma, and asked me if we could have a chat about it, which I feel very honored for – and had a brief impostor syndrome crisis – but it’s always great to chat with people who are really bright, really physiological and after the same goal, to make patients better. Always a pleasure to chat with Rory, so here it is.

I really can’t wait to see their protocol, because I think this is a huge and complex endeavor, but has to be done.  I will try to put pen to paper (probably really pixels to a screen but that doesn’t sound as good) and put what I try to do for fluid resus on a diagram of sorts.

Love to hear comments and questions.

PS please skip the first 30 seconds which are a technical blank… Ièm not tech saavy so can’t trim it!




A great comment by Dr. Korbin Haycock

One issue to consider is the degree of pulmonary vascular leakage. If, as in the case of sepsis, the pulmonary vasculature is more prone to the development of lung interstitial edema, lower LVEDP’s possibly will still result in as much lung wetness as higher LVEDP’s. Therefore, reliance of E/e’ ratios may not be the best measure of a fluid resuscitative endpoint in sepsis (and aren’t we really talking about sepsis resuscitation here?). I believe that it’s relatively clear that EVLW will adversely affect outcomes, but pushing for every bit of increased stroke volume/fluid responsiveness is less clear to be beneficial, even if it makes sense from a DO2/VO2 perspective (which may not be the real issue in sepsis anyway, as mitochondrial utilization of the DO2 provided may be the real problem, rather than DO2/VO2 balance). If the assumption is that the kidneys and lungs are the most delicate organs and most at risk to over aggressive fluid administration, and will impact mortality/LOS in the ICU, perhaps a combined strategy of attention to E/e’ ratios, development of B-lines, or the renal resistive index increasing would be a signal for a different strategy rather than fluids to increase venous return (i.e. switching from crystalloids to norepinephrine or vasopressin if the CO is elevated and will tolerate a minor ding from the increase in SVR). If any of those three variables indicate a problem, stop the fluids, switch to a vasopressor. If the issue is the CO rather than the SVR, use an inotrope instead. Of course RV/LV interactions as mentioned in the comments above must be considered. No point in giving fluids to an empty LV if the RV is failing–you’ll just congest the kidneys.

Fluids in Sepsis: An EmCrit Webinar! #FOAMed, #FOAMcc

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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:


And here is the figure for the section where I refer to fluid responsiveness/tolerance:

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I further talk about this in a previous post here.

Scott and I also recorded a debrief which should be coming up in the next weeks on EmCrit – link to follow!




Cerebral & Somatic NIRS (Near InfraRed Spectroscopy) in shock states: tailoring therapy. (PART 1) #FOAMed, #FOAMcc

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:

  1. Finding the “Sweet Spot” for vasopressors.
  2. Confirmation that therapeutic interventions are hemodynamically appropriate.
  3. Cardiac arrest: CPR adequacy, prognostication and detecting ROSC.


  1. 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.
  2. 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!





Enteral Fluid Resuscitation? The WHO to the rescue in the ED/ICU? (ORT part 1) #FOAMed, #FOAMcc, #FOAMer

So something has been trotting around my head for a few months, and it actually stems from a small and not-so-proud moment I experienced during a conversation with my wife, while she was still a resident.

She was telling me some of the stories of the day, and how one of her supervisors who had a mixed outpatient and ED practice, always pushed them to use PO fluids, get rid of IVs and get the patients home.  I kind of scoffed, in a sadly typical acute care physician mode, saying how you had to be a bit more aggressive and give them IV fluids to revert their dehydration a bit faster.

Then I caught myself. Hmmm. What exactly am I saying this (con brio) on the basis of. Knowledge, or belief?    I tried to find knowledge but came up woefully short. It seems I’m doing this out of habit, what I’ve seen/learned/believed in the two decades since someone handed me an MD degree. Damn.

So, I do believe in evolution. We have evolved platelets to stop bleeding, fibroblasts and osteoblasts that can fix bones, white cells that go mop up the messes, and all kinds of other good stuff.  One thing we do NOT have is small openings in vascular structures that allow unprocessed, man-made fluids directly into the bloodstream. We make these. We insert tubing into normally sterile environment and infuse a vast number of medications directly into this fragile matrix of cells and organic colloid – with the best of intentions.

In our physiology, however, the ONLY way fluid ever enters the vascular spaces is by diffusion from the outside of the endothelial cell into the lumen, molecule by molecule and ion by ion.

So let me seemingly diverge for a bit…

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Prior to the 1970’s, restricting oral intake was a “cornerstone” therapy of diarrheal illness, due to the pervasive belief that the GI tract needed time to heal and recover before resuming normal function. This was felt to be crucial. Hence, only IV therapy was used (in developed countries), and in the underdeveloped world, the death toll was appalling – especially among children.   In the 40’s, Dr. Darrow of Yale started actually studying the GI tract fluid and electrolyte issue, and advocating oral rehydration with mixed fluids. He was able to bring infant mortality radically down in his practice, but it would take over twenty years before a groups started to formally look at this in the 60’s.  Finally, in the late 70’s, the WHO pushed this out into the field, and the childhood worldwide mortality from acute diarrheal illness dropped by over 70%, from over 5 million deaths a year to a bit over 1 million – at that time.

Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) is now felt to be one of the most significant advances in modern medicine. Compared to that impact, all the critical care and cardiology trials are about as significant as a drop in a bucket. We’re not talking about composite end points and subgroup odds ratios of 0.85…

For a great review on this check out The History of Oral Rehydration Therapy by Joshua Nalibow Ruxin (google it).  A great story of science and humanity, good and bad.

So, back to 2015 ED/ICU’s.

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The question now becomes the following: why – in the presence of a functional gut – do I choose to entirely rely on non-physiological IV fluid resuscitation?

I can already hear the roars and the outrage and the cries of heresy.  And heresy is certainly what this is (Heresy is any provocative belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs – Wikipedia). But that doesn’t make it wrong.

So I would ask everyone – particularly the naysayers, to examine their knowledge and see if they actually have any at all that supports the strong conviction that IV fluids are the way to go in ALL cases (my N=1  principle precludes going for the one-size-fits-all therapeutic approach).

Now everyone agrees that, once patients are better, they should be on feeds with little maintenance fluids. I don’t think many will debate that. So that should be the basis to wonder whether, in the presence of a functional gut, a variable proportion of fluid resuscitation in acute illness should be enteral…

I’ll let everyone digest that.

Comments more than welcome.

More to come in Part 2.