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To further define cardiovascular abnormalities in patients with septic shock, serial conventional hemodynamic measurements combined with two-dimensional echocardiographic studies were performed at the bedside in 21 patients admitted for an acute episode of sepsis-related circulatory failure. Measurements obtained during the first hours of hospitalization revealed a group of six patients (group 1) with markedly depressed left ventricular function, as evidenced by a low cardiac index (CI) (2.2 ± 0.8 L/min·m2), reduced left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) (21 ± 8%), and an increased arterial-venous oxygen content difference. Right ventricular systolic function was also severely depressed. These patients were characterized as having sepsis-related cardiogenic shock secondary to profound myocardial depression, which was reversible within 24 to 48 h with inotropic support. The 15 remaining patients (group 2) exhibited an initially increased CI (4.9 ± 1.8 L/min·m2), with a low systemic vascular resistance. In group 2, LVEF remained within the normal range despite abnormally low peripheral vascular resistance. This finding would suggest the presence of slight to moderate depression of left ventricular systolic function. All patients in this series had a normal left ventricular end-diastolic volume, whether profound myocardial depression was present or not.