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Curr Opin Crit Care. 2007 Jun;13(3):308-17.

What technique should I use to measure cardiac output?

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  • 1Institute of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Triemli City Hospital, Switzerland.



Several less invasive cardiac output monitoring techniques are now commercially available and have the potential to replace the pulmonary artery catheter under certain clinical circumstances. The aim of this review is to give a synopsis of the currently available cardiac output measurement methods. This information should help in selecting the appropriate technique in a particular clinical setting.


An overview is given of the currently available techniques for cardiac output monitoring. Recent validation studies demonstrate that pulse wave analysis may be used reliably as an alternative to the pulmonary artery catheter in different clinical settings. The use of transesophageal echocardiography and Doppler measurements is limited due to high operator dependency, the partial carbon dioxide rebreathing technique should be applied in a precisely defined clinical setting to mechanically ventilated patients only, and pulsed dye densitometry as well as the bioimpedance technique are currently primarily applied in an investigational setting.


Less invasive cardiac output monitoring techniques may replace the pulmonary artery catheter in different clinical settings considering the specific properties of these techniques. The pulmonary artery catheter, however, may still be recommended for cardiac output measurement in specific clinical situations when monitoring of pulmonary artery pressures is desirable.

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