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Crit Care. 2004 Dec;8(6):462-8. Epub 2004 Jun 16.

Bench-to-bedside review: sepsis is a disease of the microcirculation.

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  • 1Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Gelre ziekenhuizen, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands. p.spronk@gelre.nl


Microcirculatory perfusion is disturbed in sepsis. Recent research has shown that maintaining systemic blood pressure is associated with inadequate perfusion of the microcirculation in sepsis. Microcirculatory perfusion is regulated by an intricate interplay of many neuroendocrine and paracrine pathways, which makes blood flow though this microvascular network a heterogeneous process. Owing to an increased microcirculatory resistance, a maldistribution of blood flow occurs with a decreased systemic vascular resistance due to shunting phenomena. Therapy in shock is aimed at the optimization of cardiac function, arterial hemoglobin saturation and tissue perfusion. This will mean the correction of hypovolemia and the restoration of an evenly distributed microcirculatory flow and adequate oxygen transport. A practical clinical score for the definition of shock is proposed and a novel technique for bedside visualization of the capillary network is discussed, including its possible implications for the treatment of septic shock patients with vasodilators to open the microcirculation.

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