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Bedside Catheterization of the Pulmonary Artery: Risks Compared with Benefits

Michael A. Matthay, MD; and Kanu Chatterjee, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

Grant Support: In part by the National Institutes of Health Pulmonary Vascular SCOR grant HL 19155.

Requests for Reprints: Michael A. Matthay, MD, Cardiovascular Research Institute, Box 0130, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Matthay, Cardiovascular Research Institute, Box 0130, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143. Dr. Chatterjee: Box 0124, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143.


© 1988 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1988;109(10):826-834. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-109-10-826
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The decision to use bedside pulmonary artery catheterization for managing patients must involve a careful assessment of the risks compared to the benefits. Complications can be minimized by following specific guidelines for catheter insertion and maintenance. Pulmonary artery catheterization has been shown to be more accurate than clinical assessment alone in critically ill patients for determining the cause of shock (hypovolemic, cardiogenic, or septic) or for assessing the cause of severe pulmonary edema (cardiogenic or non-cardiogenic). The diagnosis of cardiac failure in medical or surgical patients with invasive hemodynamic monitoring provides physiologic data that guide pharmacologic treatment that may favorably influence preload and afterload in the failing or ischemic heart. Managing hemodynamics with the aid of pulmonary artery catheterization in patients with the adult respiratory distress syndrome has received considerable attention, but a contribution to better patient outcome has not been established. Similarly, although clinical management of hemodynamic instability in septic shock is facilitated by pulmonary artery catheterization, the mortality remains very high because of the lack of specific therapy to reverse the sepsis syndrome. Adequate volume resuscitation and improved tissue oxygenation are universally accepted goals, but specific hemodynamic endpoints are controversial and direct measurements of tissue oxygenation are not possible. Prospective studies to define the clinical value of pulmonary artery catheterization are needed, but must be designed very carefully in order to identify unequivocally the effect of pulmonary artery catheterization on outcome in critically ill patients.

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