Background: Physiological data obtained with the pulmonary artery catheter (PAC) are susceptible to errors in measurement and interpretation. Little attention has been paid to the relevance of errors in hemodynamic measurements performed in the intensive care unit (ICU). The aim of this study was to assess the errors related to the technical aspects (zeroing and reference level) and actual measurement (curve interpretation) of the pulmonary artery occlusion pressure (PAOP).
Methods: Forty-seven participants in a special ICU training program and 22 ICU nurses were tested without pre-announcement. All participants had previously been exposed to the clinical use of the method. The first task was to set up a pressure measurement system for PAC (zeroing and reference level) and the second to measure the PAOP.
Results: The median difference from the reference mid-axillary zero level was - 3 cm (-8 to + 9 cm) for physicians and -1 cm (-5 to + 1 cm) for nurses. The median difference from the reference PAOP was 0 mmHg (-3 to 5 mmHg) for physicians and 1 mmHg (-1 to 15 mmHg) for nurses. When PAOP values were adjusted for the differences from the reference transducer level, the median differences from the reference PAOP values were 2 mmHg (-6 to 9 mmHg) for physicians and 2 mmHg (-6 to 16 mmHg) for nurses.
Conclusions: Measurement of the PAOP is susceptible to substantial error as a result of practical mistakes. Comparison of results between ICUs or practitioners is therefore not possible.