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Signa Vitae

Journal of Anaesthesia, Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine

Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!


Studies in the early 2000s suggested that the introduction of flow or cardiac output monitoring could improve outcome in major surgery, especially in high-risk patients. This led the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK to issue guidance in 2011 recommending the use of the Deltex Cardio Q Doppler flow monitor in these patients both to improve outcome and also reduce costs. This advice was subsequently extended to include all “flow monitors” in 2012. However, recent systematic reviews and major randomized controlled trials have failed to confirm the benefits of adding “flow” to conventional monitoring in the perioperative period. This paper examines physiological and methodological reasons behind this failure and introduces an alternative management strategy in high risk patients which incorporates cardiac output monitoring alongside the additional monitoring of cortical suppression and cerebral and tissue oxygenation.

Key words: multi-modal monitoring, cardiac output monitoring, depth of anaesthesia monitoring, cerebral oxygenation,venodilation

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Multimodal monitoring (MMM) in the perioperative period


Routine anaesthesia monitoring until the mid-1980s often consisted of just a finger on the pulse, primitive ECG and intermittent blood pressure (MAP) measurement using a cuff and aneroid gauge or mechanical oscillotonometer. Then in quick succession an explosion of new monitors was introduced including pulse oximetry (SpO2), end tidal carbon dioxide (EtCO2) and anaesthetic agent monitoring as well as automated non-invasive blood pressure (NIBP) machines. These were all routinely in place in many hospitals by the late 1980’s, but then progress came to a halt with no advances in routine anaesthetic monitoring for over 25 years.

This paper concentrates on three classes of non- or minimally invasive monitors which have become additionally available in the last 10 to 15 years and if used in combination their potential impact on improving outcome following surgery in high risk patients:

  1. Monitors which calculate stroke volume (SV, and thus cardiac output, CO) from a standard radial arterial line (e.g. LiDCO, UK), oesophageal probe (Deltex, UK), ECG pads or even from the finger
  2. Monitors which assess the degree of cortical suppression (e.g. BIS, Medtronic, USA) produced by anaesthetics thus potentially allowing the administrator to “fine tune” anaesthesia for individual patients
  3. Monitors which assess tissue oxygenation, usually of the brain (e.g. Invos, Medtronic, USA)

If used together they provide complementary information which should improve perioperative haemodynamic management and outcome and form part of a multi-modal monitoring (MMM) strategy which is the subject of this article.

Key words: cardiac output, minimally invasive, tissue oxygenation, depth of anaesthesia, multi-modal monitoring

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