Low StO2 measurements in surgical intensive care unit patients is associated with poor outcomes

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2014 Mar;76(3):809-16. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182ab07a4.


Background: Near-infrared spectroscopy-derived tissue hemoglobin saturation (StO2) is a noninvasive measurement that reflects changes in microcirculatory tissue perfusion. Previous studies in trauma patients have shown a correlation between low StO2 levels and mortality, organ failure, and severity of injury. The goals of this study were to identify the incidence of low StO2 in the critically ill patient population of a surgical intensive care unit (SICU) and evaluate the relationship of low StO2 and clinical outcomes.

Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. After institutional review board approval, 620 patients admitted to the SICU between July 2010 and July 2011 were screened for enrollment. Patients with an expected ICU length of stay of less than 24 hours were excluded. In the 490 patients who met inclusion criteria, StO2 measurements were obtained from the thenar eminence one to three times daily for the length of the ICU stay, up to 14 days. Outcome data included 28-day hospital mortality; ICU readmission; ventilator-free, ICU-free, and hospital-free days; and the need for lifesaving interventions.

Results: The overall incidence of low StO2 (<70%) was 11% of the patients per day. Patients with at least 1 day in the SICU with an StO2 measurement of less than 70% had higher rates of ICU readmission and fewer ventilator-free, ICU-free, and hospital-free days compared with those who did not. Mortality (28-day in-hospital) trended higher for these patients but was not statistically significant. An increase in the number of days with StO2 less than 70% was also associated with fewer ventilator-free, ICU-free, and hospital-free days.

Conclusion: Low StO2 (<70%) is common and associated with poor outcomes in SICU patients. Near-infrared spectroscopy represents a potentially useful, noninvasive adjunct to monitoring of critically ill patients.

Level of evidence: Prognostic study, level II.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Critical Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Critical Illness
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microcirculation / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / analysis*
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration, Artificial / statistics & numerical data
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen