Bench to bedside: electrophysiologic and clinical principles of noninvasive hemodynamic monitoring using impedance cardiography

Acad Emerg Med. 2003 Jun;10(6):669-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2003.tb00054.x.


The evaluation of the hemodynamic state of the severely ill patient is a common problem in emergency medicine. While conventional vital signs offer some insight into delineating the circulatory pathophysiology, it is often impossible to determine the true clinical state from an analysis of blood pressure and heart rate alone. Cardiac output measurements by thermodilution have been the criterion standard for the evaluation of hemodynamics. However, this technology is invasive, expensive, time-consuming, and impractical for most emergency department environments. Impedance cardiography (ICG) is a noninvasive method of obtaining continuous measurements of hemodynamic data such as cardiac output that requires little technical expertise. ICG technology was first developed by NASA in the 1960s and is based on the idea that the human thorax is electrically a nonhomogeneous, bulk conductor. Variation in the impedance to flow of a high-frequency, low-magnitude alternating current across the thorax results in the generation of a measured waveform from which stroke volume can be calculated by a modification of the pulse contour method. To adequately judge the possible role of this technology in the practice of emergency medicine, it is important to have a sufficient understanding of the basic scientific principles involved as well as the clinical validity and limitations of the technique.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Output / physiology
  • Cardiography, Impedance / methods*
  • Electric Impedance / therapeutic use
  • Electrophysiology / methods*
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Hemodynamics / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Contraction / physiology
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Stroke Volume / physiology