Skip to main content

Clinical evaluation of a noninvasive method to measure cardiac output


In the presence of severe complications associated with invasive measurement of cardiac output a noninvasive technique is desirable. This study was to evaluate a rebreathing method to determine cardiac output in mechanically ventilated patients.


The noninvasive method is based on a lung model consisting of a ventilated and a non-ventilated compartment, the first leading to effective pulmonary blood flow (PBF), the latter to shunt perfusion (QVA/Qt). In this model QVA/Qt can be calculated as QVA/Qt = (CcO2 — CaO2) x PBF/VO2. Using a gas mixture of soluble nitrous oxide and insoluble sulfur hexafluoride in oxygen, PBF was calculated from the uptake of N2O (PBF,rb) and oxygen uptake (VO2) from the disappearence of oxygen (VO2,rb) (AMIS 2001 Intensive Care Monitoring System, INNOVISION, Odense Denmark). CcO2 was calculated from the alveolar gas equation and CaO2 measured by gas analysis. Thus, QVA/Qt and cardiac output (CO) could be determined by means of the rebreathing data (QVA/Qt,rb) (CO,rb = PBF,rb / [1 — QVA/Qt]). Simultaneously, CO, VO2 and QVA/Qt were determined by thermodilution (CO,thd), indirect calorimetry (VO2,ic) (Deltatrac II, Datex-Engström, Finland) and by calculation from arterial and mixed venous blood gas analyses (QVA/Qt,bga), respectively. After approval by the local ethics committee of the medical faculty the investigations were performed in 40 patients on mechanical ventilation.


CO,rb varied from 3 to 12 l/min, QVA/Qt,rb from 0.06 to 0.33 and VO2,rb from 200 to 600 ml/min. Mean values of CO,thd and CO,rb, QVA/Qt,bga and QVA/Qt,rb and VO2,ic and VO2,rb were taken as reference values. Bias and precision were calculated as mean difference and standard deviation between the rebreathing and reference values in relation to the reference values. The mean difference between Co,rb and reference value was –3.6% (bias), with a standard deviation of ± 10.9% (precision). The mean difference between QVA/Qt,rb and reference value was 17.5%, with a standard deviation of 14.0% respectively; VO2 was determined with a bias of 3.4% and a precision of ± 15.4%. The mean difference between duplicate measurments related to their mean value accounted for 3.5%.


The present results suggest, that cardiac output, venous admixture and oxygen consumption may be reliably estimated by the proposed rebreathing technique.

Supported by INNOVISION, Denmark, providing the gasanalyser and the computer software for the calculation of pulmonary blood flow and oxygen consumption (AMIS 2001 system).

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Reutershan, J., Kapp, T. & Fretschner, R. Clinical evaluation of a noninvasive method to measure cardiac output. Crit Care 5, P149 (2001).

Download citation


  • Cardiac Output
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Pulmonary Blood Flow
  • Indirect Calorimetry
  • CaO2