Lithium dilution cardiac output measurement: A clinical assessment of central venous and peripheral venous indicator injection

Charles Garcia-Rodriguez, James Pittman, Cynthia H. Cassell, John Sum-Ping, Habib El-Moalem, Christopher Young, Jonathan B. Mark

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12 Scopus citations


Objective: The lithium indicator dilution technique has been shown to measure cardiac output (CO) accurately by using central venous injection of lithium chloride (Li-CCO). This study aimed to compare the measurement of CO by using peripheral venous administration of lithium chloride (Li-PCO) with Li-CCO. Design: Prospective, observational human study. Setting: Surgical intensive care unit. Patients: Thirty-one patients were studied after major surgery. All patients had arterial, central, and peripheral venous catheters. A total of 24 patients had pulmonary artery catheters. Measurements: Serial measurements of Li-CCO and Li-PCO were made during hemodynamically stable conditions. CO was also measured using thermodilution (TDCO) when a pulmonary artery catheter was present. Data were analyzed by linear regression, the generalized estimating equation, and the comparison method described by Bland and Altman. Main Results: There were 93 Li-CC0s, 93 Li-PC0s, and 216 TDCOs recorded. The ranges of COs were similar: Li-CCO, 2.36-11.52 L/min (mean, 5.22 L/min; n = 31); Li-PCO, 1.63-9.99 L/min (mean, 5.22 L/min; n = 31), and TDCO, 3.28-10.4 L/min (mean, 5.75 L/min; n = 24). There was good linear correlation between Li-CCO and Li-PCO (R2 = .845). The mean difference for Li-CCO-Li-PCO was very small and insignificant (p = .97), and the limits of agreement were acceptable (mean difference ± SD, 0.0005 ± 0.64 L/min). The mean difference for Li-CCO-Li-PCO was smaller if the peripheral injection site was proximal rather than distal to the wrist (p = .053). Li-PCO and Li-CCO values were lower than simultaneously obtained TDCO measurements (Li-PCO-TDCO, -0.538 ± 0.95 L/min, p = .003; Li-CCO-TDCO, -0.526 ± 0.67 L/min, p = .0001). Conclusions: Li-PCO gives a measurement that agrees well with Li-CCO. Accuracy of Li-PCO is probably improved if a proximal arm vein is used. Li-PCO provides accurate measurements of CO without the risks of pulmonary artery or central venous catheterization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2199-2204
Number of pages6
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002


  • Cardiac output
  • Lithium dilution
  • Measurement techniques

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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