Background: Early hemodynamic assessment of global parameters in critically ill patients fails to provide adequate information on tissue perfusion. It requires invasive monitoring and may represent a late intervention initiated mainly in the intensive care unit. Noninvasive monitoring of peripheral perfusion can be a complementary approach that allows very early application throughout the hospital. In addition, as peripheral tissues are sensitive to alterations in perfusion, monitoring of the periphery could be an early marker of tissue hypoperfusion. This review discusses noninvasive methods for monitoring perfusion in peripheral tissues based on clinical signs, body temperature gradient, optical monitoring, transcutaneous oximetry, and sublingual capnometry.
Discussion: Clinical signs of poor peripheral perfusion consist of a cold, pale, clammy, and mottled skin, associated with an increase in capillary refill time. The temperature gradients peripheral-to-ambient, central-to-peripheral and forearm-to-fingertip skin are validated methods to estimate dynamic variations in skin blood flow. Commonly used optical methods for peripheral monitoring are perfusion index, near-infrared spectroscopy, laser Doppler flowmetry and orthogonal polarization spectroscopy. Continuous noninvasive transcutaneous measurement of oxygen and carbon dioxide tensions can be used to estimate cutaneous blood flow. Sublingual capnometry is a noninvasive alternative for gastric tonometry.