Central Venous Pressure (CVP for short) is defined as the pressure of blood in the thoracic vena cava just

before it (the blood) enters the right atrium of the heart. Normal CVP is 5 to 10 cm H2O. CVP measurements are important in clinical cardiology because the CVP is a major determinant of the filling pressure of the right ventricle of the heart. The filling pressure of the right ventricle determines the stroke volume i.e. the amount of blood pumped with each contraction of the heart. Background: Central Venous Pressure is an accurate indicator of the amount of blood returning to the heart from the head, body and limbs via the superior and inferior vena cava. If and when there is blood loss then the CVP reading will be altered (will fall) almost immediately as the amount of blood returning to the heart will have decreased. Central Venous Pressure is also an accurate indicator of the ability of the heart (myocardialpump strength) to pump out blood to maintain normal blood pressure and tissue perfusion. Last but not least, the CVP is an accurate indicator of right ventricular end diastolic volume. In most institutions CVP is measured in cm of water (H2O). On this scale the normal value of CVP is 5 to 10 cm H2O. Some, (very few) institutions measure CVP in mm. Hg (millimetres of mercury). On this scale the normal value is approximately 4 to 8 mm Hg.

CVP measurements are important in clinical cardiology because the CVP is a major determinant of the filling pressure of the right ventricle of the heart. The filling pressure of the right ventricle determines the stroke volume i.e. the amount of blood pumped with each contraction of the heart. Background: Central Venous Pressure is an accurate indicator of the amount of blood returning to the heart from the head, body and limbs via the superior and inferior vena cava. If and when there is blood loss then the CVP reading will be altered (will fall) almost immediately as the amount of blood returning to the heart will have decreased. Central Venous Pressure is also an accurate indicator of the ability of the heart (myocardialpump strength) to pump out blood to maintain normal blood pressure and tissue perfusion. Last but not least, the CVP is an accurate indicator of right ventricular end diastolic volume. In most institutions CVP is measured in cm of water (H2O). On this scale the normal value of CVP is 5 to 10 cm H2O. Some, (very few) institutions measure CVP in mm. Hg (millimetres of mercury). On this scale the normal value is approximately 4 to 8 mm Hg. Generally, when the CVP is rising to unsafe (unhealthy) levels the patient may display difficulties with breathing. Conversely, when the CVP is falling there may be a decrease in urinary output and the patient may complain of feeling excessively thirsty. To correct over hydration, as illustrated by a rising CVP the physician may choose to restrict fluids or to administer a diuretic. To deal with a falling CVP the physician might choose to give the patient more fluids or blood as the case may be.

The rationale for using big deep veins for the administration is the fact that TPN causes phlebitis in peripheral veins because it is contains many caustic components. This allows the care giver to have an insight into the fluid balance status of the patient. Drugs that are likely to cause phlebitis include Chemotherapeutic Agents used in the treatment and management of malignant conditions. Hence a CVP may be inserted for this purpose. Exact fluid status can only be evaluated by correlating Hb. Prior to insertion of a CVC catheter it is good practice to clean and set up a trolley with the following equipment. 2. This is called TPN and TPN can be given safely only via a CVP line or a peripherally inserted central line (PICC). . The following are some of the general indications for inserting a CVP line. Generally TPN is administered via a central intravenous catheter which is inserted in the subclavian or jugular vein. 4. Lack of peripheral access. administration of blood and blood products. Amiodarone is used extensively in the management and treatment of acute life-threatening arrhythmias as well as for the suppression of chronic arrhythmias. In arrest trials amiodarone has shown to improve survival rates (when compared to placebo) in individuals who suffer a cardiac arrest.Indications for Central Venous Pressure Lines A central venous catheter is inserted by a qualified person into one of the central or peripheral veins and then threaded to the exterior of the right atrium where the superior vena cava meets the inferior vena cava. manage. Monitoring of Central Venous Pressure in the acutely ill patient. 1. when there is no peripheral venous access. This is only done where medically indicated and qualified nursing staff is available to care. Certain medications can be given safely only via a central line. It is useful both for supraventricular and ventricular arrhythmias because it has a low incidence of pro-arrhythmic effects. Medication Administration. medication administration. In some acutely ill patients. Cardiac Functioning and all other lab results and clinical history of the patient. Low CVP would indicate a degree of dehydration or blood loss. then a CVP line may be inserted. When an acutely ill patient’s GI tract is not able to absorb nutrients then the treatment team may decide to give the patient nutrition. and support the patient. Examples include Calcium Chloride and Potassium chloride. In infants the Umbilical vein is used most frequently. Reading the CVP correctly is essential for the results to be useful therapeutically. Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) Administration. This is usually done for the purposes of re-hydration. High CVP would indicate fluid overload or a failing heart. 3.

Manometer Method This is a low tech. 12. Both methods are accurate if done correctly and are outlined below. 1. All that is needed is a CVC line. It is the physician’s responsibility to place all sharps in the sharps container. 3. fluid. In most institutions Registered Nurses who have had special training perform this procedure. 6. Manometer or transducer with monitor and pressure bag Normal saline or heparinised saline according to Hospital policy. This constitutes informed consent and is an important nursing process. 5. Writing (non-lead) pen Patient’s chart When the physician is inserting the CVC catheter the nurse may need to elevate the foot of the bed to increase venous distension so that the physician is able to visualise the blood vessel better. Sterile Scissors Op site or other transparent dressing(s). chlorohexidine). has been verified with a chest x-ray. Measuring and Recording the Central Venous Pressure Measuring and recording the CVP is a highly skilled procedure and must be done correctly. . Local anaesthetic Hypodermic needles Silk sutures with needle. In instances where the patient is unable to understand the Institutional language an interpreter must be used. The procedure is explained to the conscious patient in simple language which he can understand. CVP catheter Sterile gown for physician or practitioner Sterile gloves and masks. 10. 13. 9. the patient and family. The CVC insertion procedure is completed when the CVC is inserted. In the acute setting CVP is measured and recorded each hour. 8. the draped patient may need emotional support too because he may be anxious and it is not comfortable lying there with the face covered and the bright lights shining on the face. adequately secured (stitched in placed) and covered with a sterile dressing. 11. manometer and a skilled team of doctors and nurses.1. Further. method and is more frequently done in remote facilities and in poorer countries. Measuring the CVP is done by two methods depending upon availability of equipment. 7. The big disadvantage of this method is that continuous monitoring is impossible and therefore it is of limited value. Incorrect readings and recordings can result in wrong medical diagnosis and wrong treatments and interventions with disastrous consequences for all care givers. CVP insertion kit (with drape. 4. 2.

This will be the lowest point during a swing cycle.Place the patient in a flat horizontal (supine) position. 4. . Fill the manometer with fluid (Normal Saline should be use unless otherwise indicated) up to the 20 cm mark.  Once a reading is obtained turn the three way tap to allow fluid to connect to patient. pressured bag of normal saline. 3. 7.  Clamp off the fluid bag. Picture 2 shows the spirit level “bubble” in the middle to signify that the bed is perfectly horizontal. electronic transducer. The equipment that is required include a CVC. CVC measurements can be taken with the patient in an upright or semi-upright position. Please see CVP waveform for more details. REFER TO PG. connecting cables and a skilled team of nurses and doctors. Turn off or pause all fluids which are running through the CVC except medications like noradrenaline which may continue to run because the effective volumes are extremely small. The important point to remember is that all CVC measurements must be done with the patient in the same position for the readings to be comparable. Please see picture 1 which shows a patient in a horizontal position. Zeroing the CVP must be done before every reading otherwise the readings will not be accurate. Older beds may not be equipped with this facility. The rational for this is that fluids find their own level and spread out evenly when the patient is horizontal. This is particularly important because the amount of medication in the line may be sufficient to raise the blood pressure if there is Noradrenaline in the line. Observe it with the previous reading and report changes and abnormal readings to the physician or treatment team.  Document the CVP on the patient’s chart. Now rotate the three way clamp to connect the manometer to the patient.  Read the CVP when the patient is taking a breath in (at the end of inspiration).4 and PG. 11. monitor. The big advantage of this method is that continuous monitoring is possible and is often done in intensive care units.  Flush the CVC to insure that the device is patent.5 for pictures Electronic Transducer Method This method is ‘high tech’ but is not necessarily more accurate than the manual manometer method described above. 9. It is done with the aid of a spirit level or a tube containing a fluid with air and water. 8. Use the spirit level indicator on the bed to insure that the patient is horizontal. 6. You may then use a manual spirit level or use your personal (visual) judgment to insure that the bed is truly horizontal. 10. If the CVP line is not dampened then the level of the CVP should rise and fall with the patient’s respirations. This is called “zeroing the CVP”. The patient may become hypoglycaemic if there is insulin in the line. 5. It is for this reason that the supine position is the gold standard for recording CVP readings. This will insure that the CVP line (CVC) remains patent for future use. 2.  The zero mark on the manometer is aligned with the phlebostatic axis. Rotate the three way tap to connect the fluid and the manometer.  The fluid level in the manometer falls to the same level as the patients CVP. Do not flush any medication lines. If you ever end up working in the intensive care of a hospital where the patient is on a ventilator you may be able to note that patients who are on ventilators have a lower CVP because the intrathoracic pressure is higher – the CVP is elevated artificially.

In instances where the patient is unable to understand the Institutional language an interpreter must be used. 7. If there is no swinging of the meniscus with the inspiratory and expiratory cycle then the CVP is dampened and the reading is probably less accurate. There are two methods for reading the CVP. 5. Add these two and obtain the arithmetic mean. Finally add the two numbers and obtain the average. Turn the tap “off” to the patient. 6. The CVC is inserted by a duly qualified practitioner. Document the measurement and report any significant changes to the physician. Open it to air by removing the cap from the three-way port by opening the system to the atmosphere.1. horizontal). Press the zero button of the monitor and wait until calibration occurs. The time and date of calibration will be displayed. Nowadays computers do this for the nurse. Finally turn the tap on to the patient. When ‘zeroed’ time is displayed on the monitor replace the cap of the three-way tap. 10. CVC Catheters differ between manufacturers. The rationale for this is that fluids find their own level and spread out evenly when the patient is horizontal. The three-way tap is located and the CVP line is connected to the transducer. This will allow the “zeroing” process. The Z-point is useful when “A” waves are not visible. The second method consists of finding the Z-point which occurs mid to end QRS. 2. When using a manual manometer reads the high point and the low point of a respiratory cycle. This constitutes informed consent and is an important nursing process. The result is the mean CVP. The waveform undulates as the right atrium contracts and relaxes. Maintain sterility at all times. Since the Z-point occurs just before the closure of the tricuspid valve it is a good indicator of CVP (right ventricular end diastolic pressure). Reading the CVP. Again. The insertion procedure is the same as that for the manometer method. the transducer and the CVP lumen of the CVC line. Observe the CVP trace on the monitor. All the nurse has to do is to look at the computer and read the CVP off the screen. The first is to read the high point of the “a” wave and then the low point of the “a”. The Z-point is read. however. You may then use a manual spirit level or use your personal (visual) judgment to insure that the bed is truly horizontal. The patient is placed in supine position (flat. 4. Older beds may not be equipped with this facility. The procedure is explained to the conscious patient in simple language which he can understand. if a transducer and monitor is being used the computer will do the . Most modern transducers give a continuous reading and are routine left in the “on” position for continuous readings. 3. 8. A pressured bag of saline is hung up and connected to the CVC line. This is the patient’s CVP. Informed consent must be obtained from the patient or legal custodian of the patient. the white or proximal lumen is the port which is used for measuring the CVP. emptying and filling with blood. This often occurs when the patient is in atrial fibrillation. This is generally the proximal lumen – most suitable for measuring the CVP. Use the spirit level indicator on the bed to insure that the patient is horizontal. 9.

10. Fluid overload. The causes of respiratory failure are not discussed here because they are beyond the scope of this article. These contractions will generally cause the CVP to rise. The back pressure causes the CVP to rise. Heart failure. The CVP will be displayed as a digital number and the waveform will be visible below the ECG tracing. This is often referred to as erroneous reading and does not have anything to with the patient’s physiological processes. 5. 4.calculations. Valsalva manoeuvre (forced expiration) will cause the CVP to rise because there is a change in compliance. The pathophysiology is exactly the same as explained above in number 2. Common Causes of Altered Central Venous Pressure The Central Venous Pressure of an individual patient can vary from normal the normal range of between 5 and 10 cm H2O due to a variety of reasons. Some of the common causes of raised (elevated) and lowered CVP are given below. Pulmonary embolism. Therapeutic of accidental fluid overload. Essentially. 7. During this disease process the embolus restricts movement of blood through the lungs. Dampening of the air filter (getting the air filter wet) can cause the CVP reading to rise because the wet filter does not allow the escape of air from the manometer. These are the most common causes of wrong readings and all nurses should make sure that the meniscus rises and falls when a reading is being taken. IPPV and CPAP cause raised intrathoracic pressures which in turn cause the CVP to rise. 6. 3. These two factors cause the blood vessels to narrow and a backlog of fluid is produced. 2. Changing a patient’s position from standing to supine will cause the CVP to rise. This may be the result of vasoconstriction due to medications or arteriosclerosis. Contractions of the abdominal and limb muscles alter compliance and circulating fluid returning to the heart. The back pressure is due to the failing heart which results in decreased cardiac output. 8. . Blood loss (haemorrhage) and fluid losses caus the CVP to fall. Occlusion or kink in central venous catheter. Causes of Lowered CVP Readings 1. Burns and vomiting are common causes of fluid loss. This fluid backlog causes CVP to rise. Causes of Elevated CVP Readings 1. Increased intra-thoracic pressure. the rise in CVP is due to the increased blood volume. When a patient’s heat is failing it is unable to pump the blood which is being brought to it by the SVC and the IVC. 9. This does not occur naturally but occurs when a patient is placed on a ventilator following respiratory failure. The backlog of blood causes the CVP to rise.

c. Typically. A patient on PEEP (positive end expiratory pressure) will have an elevated CVP. + v wave : This positive wave occurs from the pressure produced during the filling of the right atrium rises becomes it has to deal with the closed tricuspid valve. 5. As discussed elsewhere the CVP decreases slightly with spontaneous inspiration. This will cause the CVP reading to be low. and v waves. + c wave : This is another positive wave. On the ECG. These are pressure variations which occur during the cardiac cycle. Vasodilation due to excessive heat. There are two negative waves. The T wave on the ECG is produced by the repolarisation of the myocardium. medications. CVP Waveforms Diagram 1.2. 1. It is caused by a slight elevation of the tricuspid valve into the right atrium during normal early ventricular contraction. It is probably produced by the downward movement of the ventricles during systolic contractions. Typical Waveforms: The central venous waveforms seen on the cardiac monitor show the pressure changes in the SVC and IVC (at the location of the tip of the CVC). Excessive use of diuretics causes fluid loss too. 3. . sepsis and neurogenic shock will cause the CVP to fall. . During normal right atrial contraction it correlates with the P wave on an EKG.x descent : This negative wave is less well understood. there are three positive waves. These pressure changes are transmitted in the form of characteristic waves. These are the x and y waves. The QRS complex is due to ventricular contraction. These are the a.5cm H2O. This wave occurs prior to the P wave on an ECG Cautionary Advice: Since the CVC line is always located in the central part of the thoracic cavity. 4. CVP Waveform – Typical. 2. 3. It is the result of the tricuspid valve opening in diastole and with blood flowing into the right ventricle.y descent : This is another negative wave. It correlates with the end of the QRS segment on an EKG. These waves correlate with different phases of the cardiac cycle and EKG . It increases slightly with forced exhalation as well as positive pressure mechanical inspiration. + a wave : This positive wave is due to the increased atrial pressure. These changes are most noticeable when the PEEP is greater than 7. it occurs before the t-wave. central venous pressures and waveforms are influenced by changes in intrathoracic pressure during both spontaneous and assisted (ventilated) respirations. Pathologic CVP Waveforms . All of these changes are small however they can be seen clearly in well functioning CVC lines. On the 12 lead ECG this wave correlates with the ending of the T wave.

During AF: a waves will be absent. The absolute value is less significant than serial measurements which reflect the changes in response to therapy. and in atrioventricular disassociation. However.g. During tricuspid regurgitation the c wave and the x wave will be negative. a waves will be dramatically increased. 2. CVP readings should be interpreted with other clinical data like heart rate. In some situations the CVP measurement may be in the normal range even when there is Hypovolemia due to vaso/veno constriction. When this happens these waves are called “cannon waves”. A better way of obtaining an accurate CVP in similar cases would be by looking at the pressure between the regurgitation waves. Blood loss or circulatory overload) or when there is heart muscle failure. The cannon waves are produced because the atrium contracts when the tricuspid valve is closed. As stated before the normal value during spontaneous breathing is 5-10cm water cmH2O. .g. but it is not an accurate measurement. blood pressure. Correctly Interpreting the Patient’s CVP The CVP does not measure blood volume or heart functioning directly. in atrial fibrillation. all pressure will be elevated. level of consciousness. 1. During mechanical ventilation it rises to by 3-5cmH2O depending upon the PEEP (Positive end of expiration pressure) and ventilator pressure. They will be replaced by large positive waves of regurgitation as the blood flows back into the right atrium during ventricular contraction. CVP readings are altered when blood volume alters (e. urine output. and the y descent will be nearly absent. A summary guide to CVP interpretation is shown in below. and respiratory rate. 3. In cardiac tamponade. This generally elevates the average central venous pressure.Variations of the normal central venous waveform can provide information about cardiac pathology physiology e.

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