Common pitfalls and tips and tricks to get the most out of your transpulmonary thermodilution device: results of a survey and state-of-the-art review

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Pieter-Jan Hofkens, Anton Verrijcken, Kelly Merveille, Stef Neyrinck, Niels Van Regenmortel, Inneke De laet, Karen Schoonheydt, Hilde Dits, Berthold Bein, Wolfgang Huber, Manu L.N.G. Malbrain



Haemodynamic monitoring with transpulmonary thermodilution (TPTD) is less invasive than a pulmonary artery catheter, and is increasingly used in the Intensive Care Unit and the Operating Room. Optimal treatment of the critically ill patient demands adequate, precise and continuous monitoring of clinical parameters. Little is known about staff knowledge of the basic principles and practical implementation of TPTD measurements at the bedside. The aims of this review are to: 1) present the results of a survey on the knowledge of TPTD measurement among 252 nurses and doctors; and 2) to focus on specific situations and common pitfalls in order to improve patient management in daily practice.


Web-based survey on knowledge of PiCCO technology (Pulsion Medical Systems, Feldkirchen, Germany), followed by PubMed and Medline search with review of the relevant literature regarding the use of TPTD in specific situations.


In total, 252 persons participated in the survey: 196 nurses (78%) and 56 medical doctors (22%) of whom 17 were residents in training. Knowledge on the use of TPTD appears to be suboptimal, with an average score of 58.3%. Doctors performed better than nurses (62.7% vs 57.0%, P = 0.012). About 190 out of 252 (75.4%) scored at least 50% but only 45 respondents (17.9%) obtained a score of 70% or more. Having five years of PiCCO experience was present in 15.8% of the participants and this was correlated to passing the test, defined as obtaining a test result of ≥ 50% (P = 0.07) or obtaining a test result of ≥ 70% (P = 0.05). There were no other parameters significantly predictive for obtaining a result above 50% or above 70% such as gender or doctor versus nurse or Belgian versus Dutch residency, or years of ICU experience. High quality education of nursing and medical staff is necessary to perform the technique correctly and to analyse and interpret the information that can be obtained. Visual inspection of thermodilution curves is important as this can point towards specific pathology. Interpretation of the parameters that can be obtained with TPTD in specific conditions is discussed. Finally, a practical approach is given in ten easy steps for nurses and doctors.


TPTD has gained its place in the haemodynamic monitoring field, but, as with any technique, its virtue is only fully appreciated with correct use and interpretation.

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