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Preload and haemodynamic assessment during liver transplantation: a comparison between the pulmonary artery catheter and transpulmonary indicator dilution techniques

Rocca, G. Della; Costa, M. G.; Coccia, C.; Pompei, L.; Pietropaoli, P.

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European Journal of Anaesthesiology: December 2002 - Volume 19 - Issue 12 - p 868-875
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The perioperative graft function of orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) patients is particularly vulnerable [1], and its maintenance also depends on stable haemodynamics and the prevention of venous stasis. Extended monitoring during anaesthesia for liver transplantation usually includes a pulmonary artery catheter (PAC) for cardiac index (CIpa) determination and the monitoring of central venous pressure (CVP), pulmonary artery and pulmonary artery occlusion pressure (PAOP). These pressure-derived data, which often assist in determining initial resuscitative efforts, have little positive predictive value in guiding haemodynamic management to improve tissue perfusion [2]. Inadequate cardiac filling leading to suboptimal tissue perfusion and multiple organ failure, or excessive filling resulting in pulmonary oedema and a worsening respiratory function may contribute to both perioperative morbidity and mortality rates in liver-transplanted patients. Because of the reluctance of using pulmonary artery catheterization with its inherent technical problems with the pressure data obtained, new preload variables have been investigated [3-5]. The transpulmonary indicator dilution technique directly measures the circulating blood volume. The PiCCO® system (Pulsion Medical System; Munich, Germany), which uses the single-indicator arterial thermodilution technique, can evaluate the cardiac index (CIart) to assess preload as the intrathoracic blood volume index (ITBVI) and the extravascular lung water index (EVLWI) [6-8].

The primary objective of the present study was to analyse two preload variables, PAOP and ITBVI, with respect to CIpa and stroke volume index (SVIpa) obtained from PAC, and the correlation between ITBVI and PAOP in patients undergoing liver transplantation. The secondary aim was to evaluate the relationship between the changes (Δ) of the preload variables (ITBVI, PAOP) and the changes (Δ) of CIpa and SVIpa, and between ΔITBVI and ΔPAOP. The reproducibility and precision of all CIart and CIpa measurements were also evaluated.


After approval of the study protocol by the Institutional Ethics Committee and having obtained patients' signed written informed consent, 60 OLT patients (46 male, 14 female) were consecutively enrolled into the study from June 1998 to December 2000. Patients with pre-existing pulmonary and/or cardiac diseases other than the common symptoms of end-stage liver dysfunction [9] and patients with fulminant hepatic failure, hepatopulmonary syndrome or pulmonary hypertension were excluded. These abnormalities were evaluated during preoperative clinical assessment of the liver transplant candidates.

Anaesthesia and mechanical ventilation during OLT

The same anaesthetic management was applied to all individuals to smooth out the influence of anaesthetic agents. Liver transplantation was performed with the piggyback technique. Intermittent positive-pressure ventilation of the lungs with positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP, 5 cmH2O) was performed with a volumetric anaesthesia ventilator (CATO®, Dräger, Lübek, Germany). Tidal volume, respiratory rate and the mixture of O2 in air were adjusted to maintain normocapnia (PaCO2 = 4.7-5.3 kPa) and an arterial oxygen saturation >95%. End-tidal PCO2 and inspiratory and expiratory gas analysis were also monitored (CATO®). Body temperature was controlled to avoid hypothermia with a warming blanket (Gaymar Meditherm®; Orchard Park, NY, USA) and by warming all intravenous infusions (HOT LINE®; SIMS Medical System Inc, Rockland, MA, USA). In all patients, intravascular volume replacement was achieved with 0.9% saline (10 mL kg−1 h−1). Hydroxyethyl starch solution 6% (MW 200/0.5, HAES-steril®; Fresenius, Hamburg, Germany), 500 mL, was administered in all patients at the beginning of the procedure. Human albumin solution 20% was administered according to the degree of hypoalbuminaemia (2.0 g dL−1). Fresh frozen plasma (FFP) and platelet transfusions were given if the prothrombin time (judged as the international normalized ratio [INR]) > 1.5 and platelet count <5.104 mm3. Packed red cells (PRC) were transfused to maintain a haemoglobin concentration >8 g dL−1. Patients received continuous infusions of dopamine (2 μg kg−1 min−1) to maintain splanchnic perfusion and urine output, and tranexamic acid (7.5 mg kg−1 h−1, after a bolus of 15 mg kg−1) throughout the entire procedure. Furosemide (0.3-0.5 mg kg−1) or mannitol 18% (0.3 g kg−1) were used only when necessary to obtain a mean urine output > 1 mL kg−1 h−1. For guidance of volume resuscitation, ITBVI <800 mL m−2 was corrected by volume replacement; ITBVI > 1000 mL m−2 required the use of vasoactive drugs and/or diuretic therapy and EVLWI was limited to 7 mL kg−1.

Cardiopulmonary monitoring

All patients were monitored before induction of anaesthesia with a lead II/V5 electrocardiogram for the derivation of the heart rate, pulse oximetry (SpO2), and radial artery catheterization for measurement of invasive arterial pressure (PCM SpaceLabs, Inc, Redmond, WA, USA). After induction of anaesthesia, a 7.5 Fr PAC was placed in all patients via an introducer (8.5 Fr; all Intellicath®; Edwards Laboratories, Irvine, CA, USA) through the right internal jugular vein using the Seldinger technique. The catheter was connected to the Vigilance® system (Edwards Laboratories) for CIpa, CVP, PAOP, mean pulmonary arterial pressure (MPAP) and body temperature (°C) monitoring, and to obtain continuous mixed venous saturation (SvO2), continuous cardiac output evaluation and SVIpa. The zero measurement reference for the supine position was the midpoint of the axilla. Intermittent pulmonary artery thermodilution CIpa measurement was performed with the Vigilance® monitor by manual injection of iced normal saline. The average of three CIpa - measured within a 10% range - distributed randomly over the respiratory cycle was calculated. To avoid inter-operator variability, the same investigator always injected the bolus. Mechanical ventilation settings were kept the same during all haemodynamic determinations. Intracardiac and pulmonary artery pressures were monitored continuously to ensure the correct placement of the catheter.

PiCCO® monitoring

A 4-Fr gauge thermistor-tipped catheter (Pulsiocath PV2014L®; Pulsion Medical System) was placed via a 5-Fr gauge introducer (Adam Spence Europe Ltd, Abbeytown, Boyle, Ireland) through the right femoral artery and connected to the PiCCO® System (Pulsion Medical System) to monitor the transpulmonary cardiac index (CIart) and ITBVI (normal = 800-1000 mL m−2) and EVLWI (normal = 4-7 mL kg−1). The CIart and volumetric variables were obtained from a transpulmonary indicator dilution technique; the mean of three subsequent CIart measurements was used. The measurements were performed by injection of 15 mL ice-cooled saline at 4-7°C via a central venous catheter with subsequent detection by the thermistor embedded into the wall of the arterial catheter. The Stewart-Hamilton algorithm calculated CIart from the thermodilution curve [10]. ITBVI and EVLWI were calculated by the mean transit time approach (thermodilution technique) as described [8]. The PiCCO® system revealed the volumes as: EQUATION 1

where GEDV is the global end-diastolic volume, COart is the arterial cardiac output, MTtTD is the mean transit time (s) of the cold indicator from the point of injection at the determination site and the down-slope time and DStTD is the constant of decay of the arterial thermodilution curves. Based on the linear relation found in previous experimental and clinical studies, the PiCCO® system could derive the intrathoracic blood volume (ITBV) with the single indicator: EQUATION 2

where a and b are two predefined coefficients (respectively 1.16 and 86 mL m−2).

Experimental protocol

After induction of anaesthesia and when stable haemodynamic conditions were complete, baseline values of haemodynamic data and intra- and extravascular thoracic volumes were determined. All volumetric and pressure-derived variables were indexed to body surface area to improve the interindividual comparison. The patients were studied during three different phases: after induction of anaesthesia (A), during the anhepatic phase (B) and at the end of surgery (C).

Statistical methods

All haemodynamic and volumetric data obtained were analysed using SAS® (SAS Macro®; SAS Inc, Cary, NC, USA) software (for Windows PC, v.6.01). Means ± SD were calculated.

All haemodynamic and volumetric data collected were analysed using ANOVA for repeated measurements and paired Student's t-test with Bonferroni correction. The correlations between the variables as well as correlations between the changes (Δ) in these variables were studied using linear regression analysis. Changes in the variables were calculated by subtracting the first from the second measurement (Δ1 = B − A) and the second from the third (Δ2 = C − B). To reduce the influence of changes in contractility and afterload, each set of measurements was performed in a steady-state period, i.e. at least 15 min after the change in dosage of catecholamine or sedatives, infusion rate or ventilator settings. This avoided changes of the SVIpa by a factor unrelated to volume status. The SVIpa used in all analyses was based on pulmonary arterial thermodilution. The relationship between the two different preload variables (PAOP and ITBVI), and the CIpa and SVIpa, and between ITBVI and PAOP were also analysed at each predefined step by linear regression.

Agreement between cardiac index measurements obtained by the PAC and PiCCO® systems was analysed using the method of Bland and Altman [11]. Bias between the methods was calculated as the mean difference between CIart and CIpa. The upper and lower limits of agreement were calculated as bias ± 2 SD, and defined the range in which 95% of the differences between the methods was expected to lie. The precision of the bias analysis and limits of agreement were assessed using 95% confidence intervals. Additionally, correlation analysis was performed between methods. P < 0.05 was considered significant.


Patients' characteristics and the underlying diseases necessitating liver transplantation are presented in Table 1. The mean (range) anaesthesia time was 595 ± 95 (340-795) min. Mean (range) FFP, PRC and human albumin administration were respectively 19.4 ± 9.8 (3-56) U, 5.1 ± 3 (1-11) U and 300 ± 150 (0-450) mL. Four patients received platelets (9 ± 1.4 U). The intraoperative volume of blood salvaged by the cell saver was 906 ± 875 (100-4230) mL. Mean urine output was 5.1 ± 2.3 mL kg−1 h−1. Haemodynamic and volumetric data are given as mean ± SD in Table 2.

Table 1
Table 1:
Different characteristics and underlying diseases of study population.
Table 2
Table 2:
Haemodynamic, intrathoracic blood volume, extravascular lung water and PaO2/FiO2 at the three periods of the study.

Linear regression analysis revealed a significant correlation between ITBVI and CIpa (r2 = 0.47), and between ITBVI and SVIpa (r2 = 0.55) while PAOP poor correlated to CIpa (r2 = 0.02) and SVIpa (r2 = 0.015) (Fig. 1 and Table 3). In addition, correlation between ITBVI and PAOP was poor (r2 = 0.002) (Fig. 2 and Table 3). Only changes in ITBVI showed significant correlations to changes in CIpa (Δ1, r2 = 0.37, P < 0.0001; Δ2, r2 = 0.32, P < 0.0001) and in SVIpa (Δ1, r2 = 0.60, P < 0.0001; Δ2, r2 = 0.47, P < 0.0001), whereas PAOP failed (CIpa Δ1, r2 = 0.0009; Δ2, r2 = 0.03; SVIpa Δ1, r2 = 0.007; Δ2, r2 = 0.0001) as given in Table 4 and in Figures 3 and 4. Linear regression between analysed data for the three phases are given in Table 5.

Figure 1
Figure 1:
(a) Linear regression analysis between ITBVI and SVIpa for all data sets (60 patients, 180 data pairs) (r2 = 0.55, P < 0.0001). (b) Linear regression analysis between PAOP and SVIpa for all data sets (60 patients, 180 data pairs) (r2 = 0.015, P = 0.015). The lines of identities are dashed (―――).
Table 3
Table 3:
Correlation coefficients between ITBVI, PAOP and CIpa and SVIpa and level of significance.
Figure 2
Figure 2:
Linear regression analysis between ITBVI and PAOP for all data sets (60 patients, 180 data pairs) (r2 = 0.002, ns). The line of identity is dashed (―――).
Table 4
Table 4:
Correlation coefficients for changes of ITBVI, PAOP to CIpa and SVIpa and level of significance.
Figure 3
Figure 3:
Linear regression analysis between ITBVI changes and SVIpa changes. (a) Δ1 (r2 = 0.60, P = 0.0001); (b) Δ2 (r2 = 0.47, P = 0.0001).
Figure 4
Figure 4:
Linear regression analysis between PAOP changes and SVIpa changes. (a) Δ1 (r2 = 0.007); (b) Δ2 (r2 = 0.0001).
Table 5
Table 5:
Correlation coefficients between ITBVI, PAOP and CIpa and SVIpa at the three phases during liver transplantation.

The determination of CIart is required for the calculation of ITBVI. To verify the reliability and reproducibility of CIart, all simultaneous measurements of CIpa and CIart were compared. A close agreement among the two different techniques was observed at all measurements. Mean bias between CIart and CIpa was 0.13 L min−1 m−2 (2 SD of differences between methods = 1.04 L min−1 m−2). The correlation analysis showed a correlation coefficient (r2) of 0.86 (P < 0.0001) (Fig. 5).

Figure 5
Figure 5:
Bland and Altman plot (a) and linear regression analysis (b) for comparisons between CIart and CIpa for all measurements (60 patients, 180 data points).r2 = 0.86, P < 0.0001. The unbroken line shows the mean difference (bias 0.13 L min−1 m−2), the broken lines the 2 SD limits of agreement (2 SD = 1.04 L min−1 m−2), 95% CI 0.05-0.21. The line of identity is dashed (―――).


Adequate volume management owing to rapidly changing volume conditions and the variety of haemodynamic disturbances during liver transplantation, in particular, without venovenous bypass during the anhepatic period and after graft reperfusion is vital. Tissue hypoperfusion during surgery has been shown to be a portent of poor outcome [12]. Whatever the cause of this problem, either poor cardiovascular performance or reduced intravascular volume, the link between alterations in microvascular flow and the onset of multiple organ dysfunction is strong.

The application of the piggyback technique without temporary portocaval shunt is characterized by portal clamping without any surgical shunt with venous circulation that allows blood outflow from the mesenteric region only by pre-existing portocaval shunts. Therefore, splanchnic organs may become congested and therefore hypoxic. Under such conditions, cardiac output is reduced by at least 40-50%, and the increase in systemic vascular resistance resists a reduction in arterial pressure [13]. Furthermore, by the analysis of classical cardiovascular variables, a better organ perfusion and oxygenation with the piggyback technique (with temporary portocaval shunt) than with venovenous bypass has been suggested [14]. Therefore, fluid management in these patients is often a balancing act between the optimization of preload and the avoidance of pulmonary oedema, particularly during the postanhepatic phase when a postperfusion syndrome can occur [15].

Transoesophageal echocardiography, a semi-invasive and safe technique, has been helpful by providing additional information about preload and contractility and can help guide fluid replacement and catecholamine therapy during liver transplantation [16-18]. Measurement of left ventricular end-diastolic area by transoesophageal echocardiography, although considered to be the clinical 'gold standard' for the estimation of preload, is not routinely used in most operating rooms because of its high cost and dependency on skilled operators.

The PAC is still the most commonly used haemodynamic tool, but filling pressures can only serve as indirect indicators of filling volumes. Recently, owing to its relatively high degree of invasiveness, its use has been criticized [19-21]. As an alternative, a new monitoring system based on the transpulmonary thermal-dye dilution technique using cold indocyanine green dye (ICG) has been developed (COLD® system; Pulsion Medical System) [22]. The method uses two indicators (i.e. ice-cold glucose and ICG). The cold indicator is distributed throughout both the intra- and extravascular volumes, whereas ICG remains in the intravascular volume. The aortic cardiac index is determined from the thermodilution curve. The calculation of the intrathoracic volumes, ITBVI and EVLWI, is performed by an analysis of the mean transit time of the indicators derived from the dilution curves that are recorded in the descending aorta as described by Pfeiffer and colleagues [22]. Another parameter that may be measured by applying the double-indicator thermodilution technique is the indocyanine green elimination as an index of excretory liver function (PDRICG where PDR = plasma disappearance rate).

ITBVI, when compared with CVP and PAOP, directly reflects cardiac preload in many experimental and clinical studies and is considered to be an indicator of cardiac preload which is less influenced by changes in intrathoracic pressure and myocardial compliance [23-26]. Gödje and colleagues compared the conventional variables CVP and PAOP with ITBV in 30 patients after coronary artery bypass grafting, and in 40 patients during the postoperative period after heart transplantation [23,25]. After coronary artery bypass grafting, linear regression analysis was computed between changes of preload dependent left ventricular SVI and the corresponding, presumably preload indicating variables CVP, PAOP and ITBV. A good correlation was only obtained between ITBVI and SVI. Sakka and colleagues [24] confirmed that in comparison with cardiac-filling pressure, ITBVI seemed the best cardiac preload indicator in patients with sepsis or septic shock. Recently, Krenn and colleagues [27] monitored patients undergoing liver transplantation with the COLD® system and observed that an increase of ITBVI influenced pulmonary function after reperfusion; this was demonstrated by the increase in QS/QT without EVLWI and oxygenation impairment.

The data reported above [23-25,27] were obtained with the double-indicator technique. Although effective at the bedside, it is relatively time-consuming owing to the preparation of the indocyanine green solution, and is cumbersome and expensive. We used the single-indicator thermodilution technique, performed with the PiCCO® system, to measure ITBVI. To our knowledge, this is the first study that compares the value of each preload variable with the single-indicator thermodilution technique during anaesthesia for liver transplantation. In terms of preload variables, the main findings here showed a good correlation between ITBVI and SVIpa and CIpa, while no consistent correlation could be established between PAOP and SVIpa or CIpa (Table 3). Changes in ITBVI showed better correlations with changes in SVIpa or CIpa than changes in PAOP, which is also in agreement with earlier findings obtained with the double-indicator technique (Table 4)[18,23-26]. Statistically significant correlations were obtained by analysing the predefined steps: after induction of anaesthesia, during the anhepatic phase and at the end of surgery. This confirmed the validity of ITBVI as a preload index also during phases characterized by major haemodynamic changes: clamping of the inferior vena cava, unclamping of the anastomoses, and the graft reperfusion, bleeding and surgical manipulations (Table 5). The underlying measurement for the cardiac index by femoral arterial thermodilution (CIart) has been validated by a direct comparison with standard pulmonary artery thermodilution (CIpa). The results showed a close agreement between CIart and CIpa confirming previous data reported in a different clinical setting [28,29].

These experimental and clinical data demonstrate that a single arterial thermodilution-derived ITBVTD correlates well with the values measured by the double-indicator technique (ITBVDD) [5,8]. Neumann [7], in an experimental model of lung injury performed in 13 mechanically ventilated pigs, evaluated the accuracy of single-thermodilution ITBVTD and extravascular lung water (EVLWTD) versus these data obtained with the double-indicator technique. The single-thermodilution estimation of ITBVTD (r2 = 0.87) and EVLWTD (r2 = 0.98) is reasonably accurate and therefore provides useful information about the cardiac preload and severity of lung injury. Buhre and colleagues [6] compared ITBVDD versus the derived single-indicator ITBVTD in 10 neurosurgical patients and concluded that changes in ITBVTD were similar to those assessed by double-indicator dilution; the repeatability of both methods was comparable. Sakka and colleagues [8] confirmed the accuracy of the single-indicator ITBVITD and EVLWITD in septic patients.

ITBVI is uninfluenced by mechanical ventilation of the lungs because the recording of transpulmonary thermodilution is within the aorta and not within the pulmonary artery - thus avoiding interference due to chest wall compliance [30]. The limitations of the single-thermodilution technique are similar to those of the double-indicator technique. Volumes will be overestimated in the presence of large aortic aneurysms or catheters placed too far peripherally, i.e. in the radial artery, owing to a prolonged mean transit time. Furthermore, intracardiac shunts may limit the use of this technique. Additionally the accuracy of EVLWITD may be reduced in the presence of extreme pulmonary perfusion abnormality [31].

Based on data from the literature, the assessment of changes in ITBVI by the single-thermodilution method is effective for clinical purposes and is relatively less expensive when compared with the double-indicator technique. It can be used in the current clinical setting to monitor the cardiac index (intermittent and continuous values), preload data (intrathoracic blood volume) and lung oedema as extravascular lung water. The PiCCO® system essentially needs only a central venous approach and is less invasive than a PAC. The necessary haemodynamic and volumetric monitoring can be performed with good reproducibility independent of operator ability during anaesthesia in critically ill patients or during weaning from ventilatory support.

In conclusion, the ITBVI is a more reliable indicator of preload than the PAOP method during liver transplantation. Optimization of the fluid balance and vasoactive drugs administration based on volumetric monitoring makes the PiCCO® an effective monitoring system, particularly during anaesthesia for liver transplantation where intravascular volume management is a primary objective.


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© 2002 European Academy of Anaesthesiology