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Aust Crit Care. 2012 May;25(2):78-90. doi: 10.1016/j.aucc.2011.10.001. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Mixed venous oxygen saturation monitoring revisited: thoughts for critical care nursing practice.

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Clinical Research Centre, MD11, 10 Medical Drive, Singapore, 117597, Singapore.



Less invasive methods of determining cardiac output are now readily available. Using indicator dilution technique, for example has made it easier to continuously measure cardiac output because it uses the existing intra-arterial line. Therefore gone is the need for a pulmonary artery floatation catheter and with it the ability to measure left atrial and left ventricular work indices as well the ability to monitor and measure a mixed venous saturation (SvO(2)).


The aim of this paper is to put forward the notion that SvO(2) provides valuable information about oxygen consumption and venous reserve; important measures in the critically ill to ensure oxygen supply meets cellular demand. In an attempt to portray this, a simplified example of the septic patient is offered to highlight the changing pathophysiological sequelae of the inflammatory process and its importance for monitoring SvO(2).


SvO(2) monitoring, it could be argued, provides the gold standard for assessing arterial and venous oxygen indices in the critically ill. For the bedside ICU nurse the plethora of information inherent in SvO(2) monitoring could provide them with important data that will assist in averting potential problems with oxygen delivery and consumption. However, it has been suggested that central venous saturation (ScvO(2)) might be an attractive alternative to SvO(2) because of its less invasiveness and ease of obtaining a sample for analysis. There are problems with this approach and these are to do with where the catheter tip is sited and the nature of the venous admixture at this site. Studies have shown that ScvO(2) is less accurate than SvO(2) and should not be used as a sole guiding variable for decision-making. These studies have demonstrated that there is an unacceptably wide range in variance between ScvO(2) and SvO(2) and this is dependent on the presenting disease, in some cases SvO(2) will be significantly lower than ScvO(2).


Whilst newer technologies have been developed to continuously measure cardiac output, SvO(2) monitoring is still an important adjunct to clinical decision-making in the ICU. Given the information that it provides, seeking alternatives such as ScvO(2) or blood samples obtained from femorally placed central venous lines, can unnecessarily lead to inappropriate treatment being given or withheld. Instead when using ScvO(2), trending of this variable should provide clinical determinates that are useable for the bedside ICU nurse, remembering that in most conditions SvO(2) will be approximately 16% lower.

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