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Monitoring microcirculation in critical illness

Kara, Atila; Akin, Sakir; Ince, Can

Current Opinion in Critical Care: October 2016 - Volume 22 - Issue 5 - p 444–452
doi: 10.1097/MCC.0000000000000335
CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM: Edited by Keith R. Walley

Purpose of review Critical illness includes a wide range of conditions from sepsis to high-risk surgery. All these diseases are characterized by reduced tissue oxygenation. Macrohemodynamic parameters may be corrected by fluids and/or vasoactive compounds; however, the microcirculation and its tissues may be damaged and remain hypoperfused. An evaluation of microcirculation may enable more physiologically based approaches for understanding the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of critically ill patients.

Recent findings Microcirculation plays a pivotal role in delivering oxygen to the cells and maintains tissue perfusion. Negative results of several studies, based on conventional hemodynamic resuscitation procedures to achieve organ perfusion and decrease morbidity and mortality following conditions of septic shock and other cardiovascular compromise, have highlighted the need to monitor microcirculation. The loss of hemodynamic coherence between the macrocirculation and microcirculation, wherein improvement of hemodynamic variables of the systemic circulation does not cause a parallel improvement of microcirculatory perfusion and oxygenation of the essential organ systems, may explain why these studies have failed.

Summary Critical illness is usually accompanied by abnormalities in microcirculation and tissue hypoxia. Direct monitoring of sublingual microcirculation using hand-held microscopy may provide a more physiological approach. Evaluating the coherence between macrocirculation and microcirculation in response to therapy seems to be essential in evaluating the efficacy of therapeutic interventions.

aDepartment of Intensive Care, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

bDepartment of Intensive Care, Hacettepe University Faculty of Medicine, Ankara, Turkey

cDepartment of Cardiology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam

dDepartment of Translational Physiology, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Correspondence to Dr Atila Kara, MD, Professor, Department of Intensive Care, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, 's Gravendijkwal 230, 3015 CE Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Tel: +31 6 224 67111/+90 506 357 0182; e-mail:

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