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Initial care of critically ill pts must often be performed rapidly and before a thorough medical history has been obtained. Physiologic stabilization begins with the principles of advanced cardiovascular life support and frequently involves invasive techniques such as mechanical ventilation and renal replacement therapy to support organ systems that are failing. A variety of severity-of-illness scoring systems, such as APACHE (acute physiology and chronic health evaluation), have been developed. Although these tools are useful for ensuring similarity among groups of pts involved in clinical trials, guiding resource allocation, or monitoring quality assurance, their relevance to individual pts is less clear. These scoring systems are not typically used to guide clinical management.


Shock, which is characterized by multisystem end-organ hypoperfusion and tissue hypoxia, is a frequent problem requiring ICU admission. A variety of clinical indicators of shock exist, including reduced mean arterial pressure, tachycardia, tachypnea, cool extremities, altered mental status, oliguria, and lactic acidosis. Although hypotension is usually observed in shock, there is not a specific blood pressure threshold that is used to define it. Shock can result from decreased cardiac output, decreased systemic vascular resistance, or both. The three main categories of shock are hypovolemic, cardiogenic, and high cardiac output/low systemic vascular resistance. Clinical evaluation can be useful to assess the adequacy of cardiac output, with narrow pulse pressure, cool extremities, and delayed capillary refill suggestive of reduced cardiac output. Indicators of high cardiac output (e.g., widened pulse pressure, warm extremities, and rapid capillary refill) associated with shock suggest reduced systemic vascular resistance. Reduced cardiac output can be due to intravascular volume depletion (e.g., hemorrhage) or cardiac dysfunction. Intravascular volume depletion can be assessed through changes in right atrial pressure with spontaneous respirations or changes in pulse pressure during positive pressure mechanical ventilation. Reduced systemic vascular resistance is often caused by sepsis, but high cardiac output hypotension is also seen in pancreatitis, liver failure, burns, anaphylaxis, peripheral arteriovenous shunts, and thyrotoxicosis. Early resuscitation of septic and cardiogenic shock may improve survival; objective assessments such as echocardiography and/or invasive vascular monitoring should be used to complement clinical evaluation and minimize end-organ damage. The approach to the pt in shock is outlined in Fig. 4-1.


Approach to pt in shock. EGDT, early goal-directed therapy; JVP, jugular venous pulse.


Critically ill pts often require mechanical ventilation. During initial resuscitation, standard principles of advanced cardiovascular life support should be followed. Mechanical ventilation should be considered for acute hypoxemic respiratory failure, which may occur with cardiogenic shock, pulmonary edema (cardiogenic or noncardiogenic), or pneumonia. Mechanical ventilation should also be considered for treatment of ventilatory failure, which can result from an increased load on the respiratory system—often manifested by lactic acidosis or decreased lung compliance. ...

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