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The prognostic value of the subjective assessment of peripheral perfusion in critically ill patients

Lima, Alexandre MD; Jansen, Tim C. MD; van Bommel, Jasper MD, PhD; Ince, Can PhD; Bakker, Jan MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e31819869db
Clinical Investigations
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Objective: The physical examination of peripheral perfusion based on touching the skin or measuring capillary refill time has been related to the prognosis of patients with circulatory shock. It is unclear, however, whether monitoring peripheral perfusion after initial resuscitation still provides information on morbidity in critically ill patients. Therefore, we investigated whether subjective assessment of peripheral perfusion could help identify critically ill patients with a more severe organ or metabolic dysfunction using the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score and lactate levels.

Design: Prospective observational study.

Setting: Multidisciplinary intensive care unit in a university hospital.

Patients: Fifty consecutive adult patients admitted to the intensive care unit.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and Main Results: Patients were considered to have abnormal peripheral perfusion if the examined extremity had an increase in capillary refill time (>4.5 seconds) or it was cool to the examiner hands. To address reliability of subjective inspection and palpation of peripheral perfusion, we also measured forearm-to-fingertip skin-temperature gradient (Tskin-diff), central-to-toe temperature difference (Tc-toe), and peripheral flow index. The measurements were taken within 24 hours of admission to the intensive care after hemodynamic stability was obtained (mean arterial pressure >65 mm Hg). Changes in SOFA score during the first 48 hours were analyzed (δ-SOFA). Individual SOFA score was significantly higher in patients with abnormal peripheral perfusion than in those with normal peripheral perfusion (9 ± 3 vs. 7 ± 2, p < 0.05). Tskin-diff, Tc-toe, and peripheral flow index were congruent with the subjective assessment of peripheral perfusion. The proportion of patients with δ-SOFA score >0 was significantly higher in patients with abnormal peripheral perfusion (77% vs. 23%, p < 0.05). The logistic regression analysis showed that the odds of unfavorable evolution are 7.4 (95% confidence interval 2–19; p < 0.05) times higher for a patient with abnormal peripheral perfusion. The proportion of hyperlactatemia was significantly different between patients with abnormal and normal peripheral perfusion (67% vs. 33%, p < 0.05). The odds of hyperlactatemia by logistic regression analysis are 4.6 (95% confidence interval 1.4–15; p < 0.05) times higher for a patient with abnormal peripheral perfusion.

Conclusions: Subjective assessment of peripheral perfusion with physical examination following initial hemodynamic resuscitation in the first 24 hours of admission could identify hemodynamically stable patients with a more severe organ dysfunction and higher lactate levels. Patients with abnormal peripheral perfusion had significantly higher odds of worsening organ failure than did patients with normal peripheral perfusion following initial resuscitation.

From the Department of Intensive Care, Erasmus MC University Hospital Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Supported by department funds.

The authors have not disclosed any potential conflicts of interest.

For information regarding this article, E-mail: jan.bakker@erasmusmc.nl

© 2009 by the Society of Critical Care Medicine and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins