Near-Infrared Spectroscopy: The New Must Have Tool in the Intensive Care Unit?

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Standard hemodynamic monitoring such as blood pressure and pulse oximetry may only provide a crude estimation of organ perfusion in the critical care setting. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is based on the same principle as a pulse oximeter and allows continuous noninvasive monitoring of hemoglobin oxygenation and deoxygenation and thus tissue saturation “StO2.” This review aims to provide an overview of NIRS technology principles and discuss its current clinical use in the critical care setting. The study selection was performed using the PubMed database to find studies that investigated the use of NIRS in both the critical care setting and in the intensive care unit. Currently, NIRS in the critical care setting is predominantly being used for infants and neonates. A number of studies in the past decade have shown promising results for the use of NIRS in surgical/trauma intensive care units during shock management as a prognostic tool and in guiding resuscitation. It is evident that over the past 2 decades, NIRS has gone from being a laboratory fascination to an actively employed clinical tool. Even though the benefit of routine use of this technology to achieve better outcomes is still questionable, the fact that NIRS is a low-cost, noninvasive monitoring modality improves the attractiveness of the technology. However, more research may be warranted before recommending its routine use in the critical care setting.

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