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Int J Nurs Stud. 2009 Oct;46(10):1291-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2009.03.013. Epub 2009 May 6.

Nurse-determined assessment of cardiac output. Comparing a non-invasive cardiac output device and pulmonary artery catheter: a prospective observational study.

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  • 1Critical Care Research Group, Adult Intensive Care Services, The Prince Charles Hospital, Chermside, Queensland, Australia. amanda_corley@health.qld.gov.au



The accurate measurement of Cardiac output (CO) is vital in guiding the treatment of critically ill patients. Invasive or minimally invasive measurement of CO is not without inherent risks to the patient. Skilled Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nursing staff are in an ideal position to assess changes in CO following therapeutic measures. The USCOM (Ultrasonic Cardiac Output Monitor) device is a non-invasive CO monitor whose clinical utility and ease of use requires testing.


To compare cardiac output measurement using a non-invasive ultrasonic device (USCOM) operated by a non-echocardiograhically trained ICU Registered Nurse (RN), with the conventional pulmonary artery catheter (PAC) using both thermodilution and Fick methods.


Prospective observational study.


Between April 2006 and March 2007, we evaluated 30 spontaneously breathing patients requiring PAC for assessment of heart failure and/or pulmonary hypertension at a tertiary level cardiothoracic hospital.


SCOM CO was compared with thermodilution measurements via PAC and CO estimated using a modified Fick equation. This catheter was inserted by a medical officer, and all USCOM measurements by a senior ICU nurse. Mean values, bias and precision, and mean percentage difference between measures were determined to compare methods. The Intra-Class Correlation statistic was also used to assess agreement. The USCOM time to measure was recorded to assess the learning curve for USCOM use performed by an ICU RN and a line of best fit demonstrated to describe the operator learning curve.


In 24 of 30 (80%) patients studied, CO measures were obtained. In 6 of 30 (20%) patients, an adequate USCOM signal was not achieved. The mean difference (+/-standard deviation) between USCOM and PAC, USCOM and Fick, and Fick and PAC CO were small, -0.34+/-0.52 L/min, -0.33+/-0.90 L/min and -0.25+/-0.63 L/min respectively across a range of outputs from 2.6L/min to 7.2L/min. The percent limits of agreement (LOA) for all measures were -34.6% to 17.8% for USCOM and PAC, -49.8% to 34.1% for USCOM and Fick and -36.4% to 23.7% for PAC and Fick. Signal acquisition time reduced on average by 0.6 min per measure to less than 10 min at the end of the study.


In 80% of our cohort, USCOM, PAC and Fick measures of CO all showed clinically acceptable agreement and the learning curve for operation of the non-invasive USCOM device by an ICU RN was found to be satisfactorily short. Further work is required in patients receiving positive pressure ventilation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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