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Minerva Anestesiologica 2006 January-February;72(1-2):21-36


language: English

Pulmonary capillary pressure. A review

Ganter B. G., Jakob S. M., Takala J.

Department of Intensive Care Medicine University Hospital (Inselspital), Bern, Switzerland


Pulmonary capillary pressure (Pcap) is the predominant force that drives fluid out of the pulmonary capillaries into the interstitium. Increasing hydrostatic capillary pressure is directly proportional to the lung’s transvascular filtration rate, and in the extreme leads to pulmonary edema. In the pulmonary circulation, blood flow arises from the transpulmonary pressure gradient, defined as the difference between pulmonary artery (diastolic) pressure and left atrial pressure. The resistance across the pulmonary vasculature consists of arterial and venous components, which interact with the capacitance of the compliant pulmonary capillaries. In pathological states such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, and high altitude or neurogenic lung edema, the longitudinal distribution of the precapillary arterial and the postcapillary venous resistance varies. Subsequently, the relationship between Pcap and pulmonary artery occlusion pressure (PAOP) is greatly variable and Pcap can no longer be predicted from PAOP. In clinical practice, PAOP is commonly used to guide fluid therapy, and Pcap as a hemodynamic target is rarely assessed. This approach is potentially misleading. In the presence of a normal PAOP and an increased pressure gradient between Pcap and PAOP, the tendency for fluid leakage in the capillaries and subsequent edema development may substantially be underestimated. Tho-roughly validated methods have been developed to assess Pcap in humans. At the bedside, measurement of Pcap can easily be determined by analyzing a pressure transient after an acute pulmonary artery occlusion with the balloon of a Swan-Ganz catheter.

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