Hemodynamic assessment of critically ill patients using echocardiography Doppler

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Purpose of review

The evaluation of hemodynamic status in critically ill patients is a leading recommended indication of transesophageal echocardiography in the intensive care unit. Advantages and diagnostic yield of transesophageal echocardiography in this setting are particularly relevant when considering limitations and questioned prognostic impact of pulmonary artery catheterization.

Recent findings

Recent clinical studies have been performed to validate and assess the value of transesophageal echocardiography in determining cardiac output, cardiac preload dependence, right ventricular function, and left ventricular filling pressure. In addition, diagnostic capacity and therapeutic impact of transesophageal echocardiography have been widely reported in various intensive care unit settings.


Transesophageal echocardiography appears well suited for the determination of cardiac index and to track its variations after therapeutic interventions. Although repeated measurements of left ventricular end-diastolic dimension allows to accurately track preload variations, a single determination is not reliable to predict fluid responsiveness in intensive care unit patients. Identification of preload dependence in hemodynamically unstable patients currently tends to rely mainly on dynamic parameters that use cardiopulmonary interactions under mechanical ventilation. Transesophageal echocardiography also allows to adequately assess right ventricular function and left ventricular filling pressure using combined Doppler modalities. Adequate education and training of intensivists and anesthesiologists is crucial to further develop the use of transesophageal echocardiography in the intensive care unit setting. Despite the absence of randomized controlled studies documenting transesophageal echocardiography benefits on patient outcome, present evidence and experience strongly recommend a larger use of echocardiography Doppler for a comprehensive functional hemodynamic assessment of critically ill patients with circulatory failure.

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