Purpose of review: The use of fluid and inotropic therapies to optimize global haemodynamic variables, in particular oxygen delivery, in critically ill patients has been a controversial area of research for more than 25 years. The aim of this review is to describe the current evidence base for this treatment and how concepts of haemodynamic optimization have evolved in recent years.
Recent findings: The inconsistent findings of a large number of small phase II trials continue to stimulate the debate about the value of this treatment approach. However, important recent developments include the use of optimization only during periods of resuscitation, more cautious doses of fluid and/or inotropic therapy, confirmation that pulmonary artery catheter use does not result in excess mortality and an improved understanding of the mechanistic effects of haemodynamic optimization.
Summary: These advances in our understanding have now informed the design of large randomized trials in various patient groups. The true value of haemodynamic optimization is likely to be confirmed or refuted within the next 5 years.