Purpose of review: We review new findings concerning ventricular function in patients in intensive care units with shock or unexplained respiratory distress syndrome analyzed using echocardiography.
Recent findings: Bedside echocardiography is not only an imaging technique but should be considered as a hemodynamic method. Left-ventricular systolic function can be assessed in daily clinical practice by measuring shortening fraction, fraction area change and ejection fraction. But these indices are dependent on load conditions. Index of myocardial performance can be also used. Rate of left-ventricular pressure increase may be measured from mitral regurgitation. Other indices such a maximal elastance and preload-adjusted maximal power were developed to evaluate myocardial systolic function but are not still used in clinical practice in patients in intensive care. Cardiac output measurement can be calculated easily from aortic annulus diameter and the velocity time integral of aortic blood flow. To complete the assessment of ventricular function, left-ventricular diastolic function and pressure as well as right ventricular size, septal movement and right pressures should be analyzed.
Summary: Using echocardiography the intensivist can examine both the mechanism and the cause of shock or pulmonary edema. It is time to increase the use of this technique in intensive care units.