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.
‘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 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.


Jon-Emile (@heart_lung) chimes in on the whole portal vein POCUS! #FOAMcc, #FOAMed

When it comes to physiology, there`s no doubt that Jon is the man, so I was really curious about his take on all this, which, no surprise, is definitely worth sharing, just in case everyone doesn`t go read the comments.



Wow; there is a lot to unpack here.

My first comment is that intra-renal venous flow [*not renal vein flow], hepatic vein flow, portal vein flow, etc, etc, etc [as well as IVC size and respiratory variation] are all ultrasonographic transductions of the central venous pressure …so I’ll give my boxed disclaimer that volume status and volume responsiveness cannot definitively and reliably obtained from this marker because the CVP is too complicated to make these physiological leaps.

Indeed. It is important to realize that, as Jon states below, that the angle for looking at the PV in this case is to assess congestion, rather than responsiveness or the ever-so-nebulous ‘status.’

Wait for it … volume tolerance and the CVP, is a bit more nuanced, i think.  with a high CVP, you really have to ask yourself – **why** is the CVP elevated and go from there.  if the CVP is elevated because of tamponade, its very different management from a high CVP from a massive PE or air-trapping versus a high CVP from volume overload.

Absolutely. Diuresing a pre- or full-fledged tamponade, PE or air-trapping could have disastrous consequences, i.e. PEA arrest!

There seems to be some confusion about *the renal vein* versus *intra-renal vein*.  the lida trial is clear that it is intra-renal vein flow.  i am not terribly familiar with *the renal vein flow, however, my hunch is that renal vein flow should always be biphasic [just as the jugular venous flow, SVC flow, IVC flow and hepatic vein flow are always biphasic] – that is a normal pattern close to the right atrium.  normally the systolic inflow velocity is greater than the diastolic inflow velocity and there is fairly good data correlating reversal of systolic to diastolic venous flow ration to right atrial pressure [in the IVC and SVC].

Definitely the intra-renal vein should be the target here – not always easy in some patients, because the renal vein itself, especially the right (no crossover) really has an IVC pattern and won`t necessarily reflect the effect of intra-renal hypertension.

The pulsatility that evolves in the intra-renal vein as the CVP rises is beyond me, but the authors postulate that it has to do with the compliance of the vein at higher CVP and intra-renal interstitial pressure which makes some sense.  But it is important to note that the compliance curves of an intra-renal vein and *the* renal vein are probably quite different.

Secondly, the pulsatility of the PV is a neat idea because of its relative ease of assessment.  However, the pulsatility, presumably, is due to the PV encroaching the limits of its compliance curve – the PV, like the CVP – has an inflow and outflow pressure.  It is highly likely that a pulsatile PV in a post-operative cardiac patient relates to an angry RV – but is this always true?  What about the cirrhotic?  What about differential partitioning of fluid into the splanchnic bed versus the lower body?  What about differential expression of adreno-receptors between splanchnic arteries [beta and alpha] and splanchnic veins [mostly alpha].  My point is that there could be *other* inflow and outflow differentials that are affecting PV volume, compliance and therefore pulsatility that are not yet recognized.  A cirrhotic on bomb dose phenylephrine/vasopressin may have their splanchnic venous volume recruited with blood expelled towards the liver, an engorged PV that is pulsatile – but is that RV failure?  Is that a patient who needs to be decongested?  I don’t know.

Thirdly, there are complex cardiac contributions to venous flow phase and vein pulsatility such as arrythmia – atrial compliance, etc.  As the comment above notes – how might afib contribute to SVC or IVC venous inflow?  It’s hard to know, but my hunch would be that afib itself would tend to reverse the normal S wave: D wave supremacy … that is, decrease the normal systolic inflow velocity relative to the diastolic inflow velocity.  if the atrium is not emptied fully then its pressure with rise.  if atrial pressure rises, when the atrium is pulled downward during ventricular systole, the S wave will be diminished.  additionally, the more chronically dilated and poorly compliant the right atrium, the greater its pressure will be with the loss of atrial kick.

Fantastic points. Again, looking at POCUS metrics CANNOT BE DONE IN ISOLATION, from the rest of the POCUS and clinical data.

Lastly, the venous inflow pattern analysis approach to CVP estimation – i think – is better than IVC size and collapse because of how IVC size and collapse can also be affected by IAP, ITP/PEEP, etc.  Because ITP affects systolic and diastolic inflow patterns similarly, that confound should be lessened.  Nevertheless, as Dr. Denault mentions in the cases above – you have to treat the patient!  This means integrating what the data is telling you in the patient in front of you.  If in a certain clinical context the test results do not make sense, it’s probably a false positive or false negative test.

I dug up this gem from 30+ years ago. Excellent paper [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3907280 – “Ultrasonic assessment of abdominal venous return. I. Effect of cardiac action and respiration on mean velocity pattern, cross-sectional area and flow in the inferior vena cava and portal vein”].

Ok that’s on my short reading list for the next 48h!

They show the venous inflow waveform for the IVC [presumably very similar to *the renal vein]; Afib *does* cause the S wave to become attenuated – so it would change the normal biphasic form to more of a monophasic form. In theory, giving a calcium channel blocker and slowing the patient down should improve this somewhat. They even have a brief discussion on portal vein pulsatility.

This venous inflow stuff is very interesting and potentially very applicable. @iceman tweeted out wave velocity patterns in the MCA during high ICP – indeed – an increase in ICP renders the flow more pulsatile and then there is loss of diastolic flow. Probably similar physiology for an intra-renal vein as intra-renal capsular pressure rises. A good sign that the kidney is under pressure!

Thank you Jon for some really excellent physiological points and the reminder that, in POCUS just as in clinical medicine, we cannot rely on one assessment, and that measure must be considered in the context of the factors affecting it. Otherwise, we are not truly tailoring our therapy to the patient, but only pretending to.

Don’t miss Jon and the POCUS workshops at  next april!

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…




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!




Physician, know thy fluids! #FOAMed, #FOAMcc, #FOAMer

So I posted a quick poll on http://www.therounds.com, a really upcoming physician site, with the intent of getting an idea of what people use as fluids and what they know about them.


The first question was “What is your fluid of choice for resuscitation?”

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…no big surprise, 61% choose NS.  Despite the evidence of increased renal dysfunction (JAMA 2012 – I posted about this here: https://thinkingcriticalcare.com/2013/11/18/enough-with-the-normal-saline-foamed-foamcc/)

Well, at least this is chosen with good knowledge of its pharmacological properties, right?

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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.