Vasopressor responsiveness beyond arterial pressure: a conceptual systematic review using venous return physiology

Anders Åneman, Petter Wilander, Frank Zoerner, Miklos Lipcsey, Michelle S. Chew

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


We performed a systematic review to investigate the effects of vasopressor-induced hemodynamic changes in adults with shock. We applied a physiological approach using the interacting domains of intravascular volume, heart pump performance, and vascular resistance to structure the interpretation of responses to vasopressors. We hypothesized that incorporating changes in determinants of cardiac output and vascular resistance better reflect the vasopressor responsiveness beyond mean arterial pressure alone. We identified 28 studies including 678 subjects in Pubmed, EMBASE, and CENTRAL databases. All studies demonstrated significant increases in mean arterial pressure (MAP) and systemic vascular resistance during vasopressor infusion. The calculated mean systemic filling pressure analogue increased (16 ± 3.3 mmHg to 18 ± 3.4 mmHg; P = 0.02) by vasopressors with variable effects on central venous pressure and the pump efficiency of the heart leading to heterogenous changes in cardiac output. Changes in the pressure gradient for venous return and cardiac output, scaled by the change in MAP, were positively correlated (r2 = 0.88, P < 0.001). Changes in the mean systemic filling pressure analogue and heart pump efficiency were negatively correlated (r2 = 0.57, P < 0.001) while no correlation was found between changes in MAP and heart pump efficiency. We conclude that hemodynamic changes induced by vasopressor therapy are inadequately represented by the change in MAP alone despite its common use as a clinical endpoint. The more comprehensive analysis applied in this review illustrates how vasopressor administration may be optimized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-359
Number of pages8
JournalShock (Augusta, Ga.)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • Arterial pressure
  • cardiac output
  • mean systemic filling pressure
  • vasopressor
  • venous return


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