To Swan or Not to Swan: Indications, Alternatives, and Future Directions

J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2021 Feb;35(2):600-615. doi: 10.1053/j.jvca.2020.07.067. Epub 2020 Jul 28.


The pulmonary artery catheter (PAC) has revolutionized bedside assessment of preload, afterload, and contractility using measured pulmonary capillary wedge pressure, calculated systemic vascular resistance, and estimated cardiac output. It is placed percutaneously by a flow-directed balloon-tipped technique through the venous system and the right heart to the pulmonary artery. Interest in the hemodynamic variables obtained from PACs paved the way for the development of numerous less-invasive hemodynamic monitors over the past 3 decades. These devices estimate cardiac output using concepts such as pulse contour and pressure analysis, transpulmonary thermodilution, carbon dioxide rebreathing, impedance plethysmography, Doppler ultrasonography, and echocardiography. Herein, the authors review the conception, technologic advancements, and modern use of PACs, as well as the criticisms regarding the clinical utility, reliability, and safety of PACs. The authors comment on the current understanding of the benefits and limitations of alternative hemodynamic monitors, which is important for providers caring for critically ill patients. The authors also briefly discuss the use of hemodynamic monitoring in goal-directed fluid therapy algorithms in Enhanced Recovery After Surgery programs.

Keywords: Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS); cardiac output (CO); hemodynamic monitoring; pulmonary artery catheter (PAC); pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anseriformes*
  • Cardiac Output
  • Catheterization, Swan-Ganz
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Thermodilution*