BACKGROUND: Indirect/noninvasive blood pressure, heart rate and central venous pressure are frequently monitored hemodynamic parameters in postoperative cardiac surgery patients. No previous studies have explored the effect of lateral position on these variables in this population. OBJECTIVES: To determine differences in (1) blood pressure, central venous pressure, or heart rate measurements among postoperative cardiac surgery patients due to position (supine, 45 degrees right lateral, and 45 degrees left lateral), (2) responses to position between patients having cardiac surgery in which the myocardium was opened (valvular replacement) and those in which it was not (coronary artery bypass graft), and (3) responses to position between cardiac surgery patients having preoperatively diagnosed lung disease and those without lung disease. METHODS: Phlebostatic axis in lateral positions was determined by echocardiography and geometric diagrams prior to the initiation of data collection. Postoperative cardiac surgery patients (N = 120) were studied in the three positions in random sequences. In each position, simultaneous blood pressure measurements were obtained from each arm, and central venous pressure and heart rate were recorded. RESULTS: Statistically significant differences were found in response to position in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, central venous pressure, and heart rate. Certain positions produced greater changes in selected variables, both in the total group and within specific subgroups. No differences were found between coronary artery bypass graft and valve (closed or opened myocardium) subgroups or between subgroups with and without lung disease. CONCLUSIONS: Lateral positioning of postoperative cardiac surgery patients appears to cause no detrimental effects on indirect/noninvasive blood pressure or heart rate measurements. However, significant differences in central venous pressure may occur and supine positioning for determination of central venous pressure is recommended.

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