Objective: To measure arginine vasopressin (AVP) serum concentrations in critically ill patients.
Design: Prospective study.
Setting: Twelve-bed general and surgical intensive care unit in a tertiary, university teaching hospital.
Patients: Two-hundred-thirty-nine mixed critically ill patients and 70 healthy volunteers.
Measurements and main results: Demographic data, hemodynamic variables, vasopressor drug requirements, blood gases, AVP serum concentrations within 24 hrs after admission, multiple organ dysfunction score, and outcome were recorded. Twenty-four hours after admission, study patients had significantly higher AVP concentrations (11.9 +/- 20.6 pg/mL) than healthy controls (0.92 +/- 0.38 pg/mL; p < .001). Males had lower AVP concentrations than females (9.7 +/- 19.5 vs. 15.1 +/- 20.6 pg/mL; p = .014). Patients with hemodynamic dysfunction had higher AVP concentrations than patients without hemodynamic dysfunction (14.1 +/- 27.1 vs. 8.7 +/- 10.8 pg/mL; p = .042). Patients after cardiac surgery (n = 96) had significantly higher AVP concentrations when compared to patients admitted for other diagnoses (n = 143; p < .001). AVP concentrations were inversely correlated with length of stay in the intensive care unit (correlation coefficient, -0.222; p = .002). There was no correlation between serum AVP concentrations and the incidence of shock or specific hemodynamic parameters. Four (1.7%) of the 239 study patients met criteria for an absolute AVP deficiency (AVP, <0.83 pg/mL), and 32 (13.4%) met criteria for a relative AVP deficiency (AVP, <10 pg/mL, and mean arterial pressure, <70 mm Hg). In shock patients, relative AVP deficiency occurred in 22.2% (septic shock), 15.4% (postcardiotomy shock), and 10% (shock due to a severe systemic inflammatory response syndrome) (p = .316).
Conclusions: AVP serum concentrations 24 hrs after intensive care unit admission were significantly increased in this mixed critically ill patient population. The lack of a correlation between AVP serum concentrations and hemodynamic parameters suggests complex dysfunction of the vasopressinergic system in critical illness. Relative and absolute AVP deficiency may be infrequent entities during acute surgical critical illness, mostly remaining without significant effects on cardiovascular function.