Liberal and overaggressive use of vasopressors during the initial period of shock resuscitation may compromise organ perfusion and worsen outcome. When transiently applying the concept of permissive hypotension, it would be helpful to know at which arterial blood pressure terminal cardiovascular collapse occurs.
In this retrospective cohort study, we aimed to identify the arterial blood pressure associated with terminal cardiovascular collapse in 140 patients who died in the intensive care unit while being invasively monitored. Demographic data, co-morbid conditions and clinical data at admission and during the 24 hours before and at the time of terminal cardiovascular collapse were collected. The systolic, mean and diastolic arterial blood pressures immediately before terminal cardiovascular collapse were documented. Terminal cardiovascular collapse was defined as an abrupt (<5 minutes) and exponential decrease in heart rate (>50% compared to preceding values) followed by cardiac arrest.
The mean ± standard deviation (SD) values of the systolic, mean and diastolic arterial blood pressures associated with terminal cardiovascular collapse were 47 ± 12 mmHg, 35 ± 11 mmHg and 29 ± 9 mmHg, respectively. Patients with congestive heart failure (39 ± 13 mmHg versus 34 ± 10 mmHg; P = 0.04), left main stem stenosis (39 ± 11 mmHg versus 34 ± 11 mmHg; P = 0.03) or acute right heart failure (39 ± 13 mmHg versus 34 ± 10 mmHg; P = 0.03) had higher arterial blood pressures than patients without these risk factors. Patients with severe valvular aortic stenosis had the highest arterial blood pressures associated with terminal cardiovascular collapse (systolic, 60 ± 20 mmHg; mean, 46 ± 12 mmHg; diastolic, 36 ± 10 mmHg), but this difference was not significant. Patients with sepsis and patients exposed to sedatives or opioids during the terminal phase exhibited lower arterial blood pressures than patients without sepsis or administration of such drugs.
The arterial blood pressure associated with terminal cardiovascular collapse in critically ill patients was very low and varied with individual co-morbid conditions (for example, congestive heart failure, left main stem stenosis, severe valvular aortic stenosis, acute right heart failure), drug exposure (for example, sedatives or opioids) and the type of acute illness (for example, sepsis).
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13054-014-0719-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.