POCUS, Mythology and Hemodynamic Awesomeness with Jon and Korbin! #FOAMed, #FOAMer, #FOAMus

In Greek mythologyPrometheus (/prəˈmθəs/GreekΠρομηθεύςpronounced [promɛːtʰeús], meaning “forethought”)[1] is a Titanculture hero, and trickster figure who is credited with the creation of man from clay, and who defies the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity, an act that enabled progress and civilization. Prometheus is known for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind.[2]

So, fresh from reading Jon’s post, I felt I had to add a bit of nuance in my previous post to what I feared some might extract as a take-home message, even if in fact, we are not that differing in opinion at all – which Jon expressed here:

i agree with ultrasound for finding the uncommon causes of shock. these examples seems to permeate twitter and make ultrasound very appealing. because ultrasound is non-invasive, it makes the risk-to-benefit ratio very low for these uncommon but highly-lethal and treatable causes.

but that needs to be compared to the risk-to-benefit ratio of ultrasound for the more common causes of shock – like ‘non-cardiogenic, septic’ etiologies as seen in SHOC-ED. here, “static’ ultrasound [as per the RUSH and ACES protocols] – per SHOC-ED – appears to be neither helpful nor harmful. your read of the discussion is perfect, but i was depressed because it read as if the authors only realized this ex post facto – study of previous monitoring utensils [e.g. PAC] should have pre-warned the authors …

i will take some mild issue with markers of volume responsiveness and tolerance. you are correct on both fronts – but what the data for the IVC reveals – perhaps paradoxically – is that true fluid responders can have a very wide-range of IVC sizes from small to large and unvarying … this was born out in most of the spontaneously breathing IVC papers [airpetian and more recent corl paper] the sensitivity was rather poor.

the same *could* be true for the opposite side of the coin. a large great vein may not mean a volume intolerant patient. i tried to exemplify how that could be so in the illustrative case in my post. an elderly man, with probable pulmonary hypertension and chronic TR who probably “lives” at high right-sided pressures. nevertheless, he likely has recurrent C. diff and is presenting 1. hypovolemic and 2. fluid responsive despite his high right-sided pressures. portal vein pulsatility *could* be quite high in this patient – but he still needed some volume.

the obvious underlying issue here – which I know you are well attuned to – is that a Bayesian approach is imperative. when you PoCUS your patients, you are inherently taking this into consideration – i know that you are a sophisticated sonographer. my hidden thesis of the post is that if ultrasound findings are followed in a clinical vacuum and followed without really understanding the physiology [which can explain clinico-sonographic dissociation – like the patient in my fictitious case]… disappointment awaits.

Then Korbin Haycock chimes in and adds a level of understanding that I completely agree with but had difficulty in expressing, but which I think is key to understanding the current and future evolution of POCUS. Complex, operator-dependant medical leaps such as laparoscopic surgery suffered with similar growing pains. But I’ll let Korbin shed some light:
I think the issue of POCUS in resuscitation is somewhat analogous to Prometheus’s gift of fire to humanity.
Jon has quite aptly pointed out that if POCUS (particularly a single POCUS supplied data point such as IVC diameter), if used in isolation, without clinical context, and without comprehensive information, is not much better than using a single data point such as CVP to make complex clinical decisions. Multiple factors influence the behavior of the IVC, just as they do with the CVP. Being a dynamic entity, the IVC does have some advantages over a static number like the CVP. However, if considered by itself, the IVC POCUS evaluation will only result in the same pitfalls as using the CVP as a guide to fluid management. If POCUS is applied in such a blunt manner, we are doomed to repeat our previous folly of using the CVP as a guide to fluid resuscitation. I hope I am in the ball park of the core of Jon’s point here, if not as very eloquently stated by him.
Phil is advocating a more nuanced and sophisticated approach to POCUS than what the SHOC-ED trial investigators used to guide management in their study. Most shocked patients presenting to the ED (“Emerge!”) come with a phenotype of distributive shock. Indeed, these were the majority of the patients in the SHOC-ED trial. Any experienced clinician will recognize this syndrome virtually every time, with no more than an “eyeball and Gestalt” assessment from across the room and a set of vital signs. Current dogma is that this syndrome ought to be treated with 30 cc/kg of crystalloids and then to add a vasopressor if the patient’s blood pressure is still low. Given this, there couldn’t have been much difference as to how patients were managed in either group in this study. I however, disagree with this aggressive crystalloid administration approach, as I’m sure many readers of Phil’s blog do as well. What I gather Phil is saying here is, as he insightfully stated in the past, “IVC never lies, it’s just not telling you the whole story.” A complete POCUS gives us (OK, well almost) the whole story. The caveat here is you must know a whole lot about POCUS. Thus the Prometheus analogy. A little information is a child playing with fire.
Someone new to POCUS, with only a novice’s understanding of what an IVC POCUS evaluation means, will probably make the correct assessment of a patient’s fluid status about 60-70% of the time. This probably is only slightly better than an experienced clinician’s non-POCUS judgement. Hardly enough to translate into any meaningful clinical outcome in a trial without a ridiculously large sample size to find a pretty small benefit. But POCUS potentially offers so much more information. LV and RV systolic function, LV and RV diastolic function, SV, CO, SVR, PVR, RAP/CVP, sPAP/mPAP/dPAP, LVEDP/LAP/PAOP, valvular pathology, tamponade, fluid responsiveness (for what ever that’s worth!), RV/LV interactions (both in series and in parallel), EVLW, insight into pulmonary vascular permeability, renal resistive index/renal venous congestion, portal hypertension/congestion, gut flow resistance, and on and on. Most of this information can be more or less determined in less time that it takes to put in a central line in order to get the damned CVP (actually, I do like to know what my CVP is, for what it’s worth). The more data points you are able to collect with increased POCUS skills and experience, the more grasp you have as to what is going on with your patient and the right way to treat them. I would argue that given the information attainable with advanced POCUS skills, POCUS is a no-brainer that will enormously improve not only individual patient outcomes, but effect populations at large, if only the general hospital based practitioner can attain a more than introductory understanding of POCUS.
So, I guess the question is, “how much training is enough training?” I don’t know. Inevitably, POCUS knowledge will incur a bit of the Dunning-Kruger effect as pointed out by Jon’s example of an IVC POCUS fail. But reading Jon’s clinical case example, from the get go, I found myself asking questions that would change may management one way or another with additional information that I could get quickly and easily with additional POCUS interrogation of the patient. Jon pointed this out himself by revealing that the patient has pulmonary hypertension as manifested by the tricuspid regurgitation upon auscultation of the heart. With POCUS, I don’t need to guess what a heart murmur is or how bad it is or even if it is relevant to my patient in this case for that matter. POCUS can tell me it’s TR and it tells me what the sPAP/mPAP/dPAP and PVR is if I care to find out. So if this level of information can be gleaned, for me, no one can argue that POCUS has no merit. But, I’ve spent a lot of time striving to be good at this, just as probably a lot of people reading this have done as well. What about newbies?
Consider: At my main hospital, for a variety of sensible reasons I won’t get into, we decided to train a group of nurses in POCUS in order to evaluate septic patients. They achieve basic training in POCUS and are very competent sonographers with regard to IVC, gross LV and RV function, and pulmonary edema. They are a small group of very intelligent, skillful nurses that are excited to learn all they can. We had them evaluate every septic patient that presented to our hospital, do a POCUS exam, and discuss the findings with a physician. We established some very basic resuscitation endpoints largely based on POCUS findings applied to each individual patient and their POCUS exam. Our severe sepsis/septic shock mortality rates dropped from 35-38% to 8-10% with this program. Our hospital plans to publish this data officially soon for public analysis, but it did make a difference in our experience. That said, my nurses do frequently show me cases where I notice some small detail on their POCUS exam that propmts an additional investigation that alters the plan in management. Also, some of my very competent POCUS savvy residents make errors because they don’t have enough knowledge yet. I’m sure I can make these errors too at times as well, although hopefully less and less so with time.
Here’s my point: Heed Jon’s admonition to look at the big picture and not rely on isolated data points. Be inspired by Phil’s passion for the potential of a good POCUS evaluation. If you only get your toes wet with POCUS, you are playing with forbidden fire. But if you care to look into it further, POCUS opens up worlds to you. By all means, learn all you can about POCUS. Recognize that if you are new to POCUS techniques, there are improtant caveats to each finding, and physiology that needs to be considered with a comprehensive view, some of it may be strictly non-POCUS related information as well. Your patient is unique and only a careful comprehensive consideration of what’s going on with your patient will guide the best approach to your management of their illness. I don’t think SHOC-ED or any other trial for that matter can address the nuances of good individualized patient management. That is up to you.Jon replies:

nice analogy – i think Korbin’s response is appropriate and i look forward to speaking alongside him in May. as i chew on the SHOC-ED a little and try to distill my concerns – i think what it boils down to is this: it’s less about playing with fire – i think – and more about how this fire is brought to the community as a whole. my post on pulmccm was more of a warning to the early adopters [like us] who are planning these trials. imagine 40 years ago:

-the flotation PAC is introduced, a small group of clinical physiologists use it thoughtfully, understand the caveats, the problems of data acquisition, interpretation, implementation, the problems with heart-lung interactions, intra-thoracic pressure, etc.
-these early adopters present their results to the community as a whole
-the physiology of the PAC is simplified
-the numbers from the PAC are introduced into algorithms and protocols and **widely** adopted into clinical practice
-the PAC is studied based on the above and found to make no difference in patient outcome.
-in 2010 a venerable intensivist suggests floating a PAC in a complicated patient and the fellow on rounds chuckles and states that their is ‘no evidence of benefit’

does this sound eerily familiar? is our present rhyming with the past? if the planners of POCUS trials are not careful, i promise you that the same will happen but insert any monitoring tool into the place of PAC. i can very easily visualize a fellow on rounds in the year 2030 scoffing at the idea of PoCUS because trials [SHOC-ED, and future trials x, y and z] showed no difference in patient outcome. is it because PoCUS is unhelpful or is it because the way it was introduced and studied was unhelpful? and the three of us will sound like the defenders of the PAC from 30 years ago: “PoCUS isn’t being used correctly, it’s over-simplified, it works in my hands, etc. etc.”

it’s not PoCUS that’s unhelpful, it’s how we’re implementing it – and i was most depressed when the authors of SHOC-ED appeared to stumble upon this only in the discussion of their paper – like you mentioned phil. imprecise protocols will result in equally imprecise data and the result will be nebulous trial outcomes. we should all be worried.

Korbin adds:

Excellent points Jon. The PAC example is very relevant, as on more than one occasion, I’ve had the argument put to me by some colleagues that essentially how I’m applying POCUS is really no different than the information gleaned from the PAC, and “that’s been shown to not be helpful to outcomes” etc. So, therefore, why do I bother?

Then again, I’ve seen a fair amount of phenylephrine being thrown at hypotensive cardiogenic shock patients after a 2 liter normal saline bolus didn’t do the trick.

You are absolutely spot on when you point out that seeing the big picture, knowing the physiology, and being aware of the pitfalls of isolated data points is important to making the right decisions in patient care.

Furthermore, I agree that when a clinical trial is done that doesn’t consider some of the nuances of all this, and “shows” that POCUS, or any other diagnostic modality for that matter, doesn’t contribute to better patient outcomes, it probably only serves to marginalize a potentially valuable diagnostic tool to an actually astute intelligent clinician.

I’m not meaning by saying this to bash the good intentions of the SHOC-ED trial. To be fair, it’s really hard to design a trial that can take into account all the permutations that are involved in any individual patient presents with, having their own unique clinical situations, hemodynamic profiles, co-morbidities (both known and undiagnosed), etc. POCUS, PAC, transpulmonary thermodilution, ECG, chest x-ray, CT scans, labs, physical exam–these are all merely tools that guide patient care. Albeit some are way more powerful than others. I can image various amounts of uproar if some of these traditional tools were subjected to clinical trials to prove their utility. The argument, if proven “useless” in a study for the oldest and well accepted tools would always be, “put it in the clinical context, and its value speaks for itself.” For me, I’d happily like to make clinical descisions based on information based on an advanced POCUS exam or PAC, rather than interpreting hepatojugular reflux or a supine chest x-ray.

Any diagnostic test requires that the clinician understand the limitations of that test, and understand that the whole clinical scenario must me taken into account. You’ve hit on that, I think, with your argument. This surely has implications when any technology or test is studied.

‘Nuff said.
PS These are just the kind of discussions that can change both the way you approach medicine and manage your patients, and these are the ones you find behind the scenes and in the hallways of H&R2018. Don’t miss H&R2019 if you take care of sick patients. It’s the kind of small, chill conference where the faculty will be happy to take a few minutes and discuss cases and answer all your questions (if they can) about acute care.

Shock Macro and Micro-circulation: Piecing things together. (Part 1) #FOAMed, #FOAMcc


So I have really, really enjoyed the discussions I had with these bright people on shock circulation:

Segun Olusanya (@iceman_ex) Resus Track 2

Rory Spiegel (@EMnerd) Resus Track 3

Korbin Haycock (tell him to get on twitter) Resus Track 4

Jon Emile (@heart-lung)  Resus Track 5


Some take home points so far:

I think that more questions than answers truthfully came out of this, and that is really the best part. But lets see what the common agreed upon thoughts were:

a. the relationship between the MAP and tissue perfusion it quite complex, and definitely not linear. So scrap that idea that more MAP is more perfusion. Could be more, same, or less…

b. you can definitely over-vasoconstrict with vasopressors such that a increasing MAP, at some point, can decrease tissue perfusion. Clinically, we have all seen this.

c. no matter what you are doing theorizing about physiology and resuscitation, THE MOST IMPORTANT IS TO CONTROL THE SOURCE!


Some of the interesting possibilities:

a. Korbin sometimes sees decreasing renal resistive indices with resuscitation, particularly with the addition of vasopressin.

b. the Pmsa – can this be used to assess our stressed volume and affect our fluid/vasopressor balance?

c. trending the end-diastolic velocity as a surrogate for the Pcc and trending the effect of hemodynamic interventions on tissue perfusion.

This stuff is fascinating, as we have essentially no bedside ability to track and measure perfusion at the tissue level. This is definitely a space to watch, and we’ll be digging further into this topic.


Jon-Emile added a really good clinical breakdown:

I think one way to think of it is by an example. Imagine 3 patient’s MAPs are 55 mmHg. You start or increase the norepi dose. You could have three different responses as you interrogate the renal artery with quantitative Doppler:

patient 1: MAP increases to 65 mmHg, and renal artery end-diastolic velocity drops from 30 cm/s to 15 cm/s
patient 2: MAP increases to 65 mmHg and renal artery end-diastolic velocity remains unchanged.
patient 3: MAP increases to 65 mmHg and renal artery EDV rises from 10 cm/s to 25 cm/s

in the first situation, you are probably raising the critical closing pressure [i know i kept saying collapse in the recording] relative to the MAP. the pressure gradient falls and therefore velocity falls at end diastole. one would also expect flow to fall in this case, if you did VTI and calculated area of renal artery. in this situation you are raising arteriolar pressure, but primarily by constriction of downstream vessels and perfusion may be impaired. ***the effects on GFR are complicated and would depend on relative afferent versus efferent constriction***

in the second situation, you have raised MAP, and probably not changed the closing pressure because the velocity at the end of diastole is the same. if you look at figure 2 in the paper linked to above, you can see that increasing *flow* to the arterioles will increase MAP relative to the Pcc [closing pressure]. the increase in flow raises the volume of the arteriole which [as a function of arteriolar compliance] increases the pressure without changing the downstream resistance. increasing flow could be from beta-effects on the heart, or increased venous return from NE effects on the venous side activating the starling mechanism. another mechanism to increase flow and therefore arteriolar pressure relative to the closing pressure is the provision of IV fluids.

in the third situation, MAP rises, and EDV rises which suggests that the closing pressure has also fallen – thus the gradient from MAP to closing pressure rises throughout the cycle. how might this happen? its possible that raising the MAP decreases stimulus for renin release in afferent arteriole, less renin leads to less angiotensin and less efferent constriction. thus, paradoxically, the closing pressure falls with NE! another possibility is opening shunts between afferent and efferent arterioles [per Bellomo]. as above ***the effects on GFR are complicated and would depend on relative afferent versus efferent resistance changes***


This is really, really interesting stuff. So in theory, the MAP-Pcc gradient would be proportional to flow, so if we can estimate the direction of this gradient in response to our interventions, we may be able to decrease iatrogenism. I’ll have to discuss with Jon and Korbin which arterial level we should be ideally interrogating…

More to come, and next up will be Josh Farkas (@Pulmcrit), and I’m sure anyone following this discussion is looking forward to what he has to say. I know I am.




The Resus Tracks 04: Shock Circulation & Renal Perfusion with Korbin Haycock. #FOAMed, #FOAMer, #FOAMus


So I got to have a chat with ER doc extraordinaire Korbin Haycock today, reasserting my belief that tissue perfusion is not proportional to blood pressure.  I am again including the article discussed, and here is the graph in question:

Here is our talk:

And the paper – which is definitely worth a read, as it clearly supports individualizing therapy!

MAP in sepsis review


cheers and please jump into the discussion!



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




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!



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.