Background Cardiac output can be determined by using a variety of methods.

Objectives To determine the precision and bias between 3 methods for determining cardiac output: bioimpedance, thermodilution, and the Fick method.

Methods Cardiac output was determined by using bioimpedance via neck and thorax patches and thermodilution via pulmonary artery catheter in 46 patients in the intensive care unit. A subset of 15 patients also had cardiac output determined by using the Fick method.

Results Mean (SD) cardiac output in all patients was 6.3 (2.2) L/min by thermodilution and 5.6 (2.0) L/min by bioimpedance. In the 15 patients in whom all 3 methods were used, mean cardiac output was 6.0 (1.7) L/min by thermodilution, 5.3 (1.7) L/min by bioimpedance, and 8.6 (4.5) L/min by the Fick method. Bias and precision (mean difference ± 2 SDs) were 0.7 ± 2.9 L/min between thermodilution and bioimpedance, 1.7 ± 3.8 L/min between the Fick method and thermodilution, and 2.4 ± 4.7 L/min between the Fick method and bioimpedance.

Conclusion Bioimpedance, thermodilution, and Fick determinations of cardiac outputs are not interchangeable in a heterogenous population of critically ill patients.

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