Key messages

• The pulmonary artery wedge pressure (PAWP) only reflects left atrial and thus, in general, left ventricular filling pressure, if there is continuity with the left atrium.

• During spontaneous and artificial ventilation, the appropriate phase in the ventilatory cycle to judge PAWP is at end expiration.

• For clinical purposes, it is recommended that the thermodilution cardiac output in ventilated patients is determined as the mean of at least four thermodilution injections (with valid curves) at random in the ventilatory cycle using a room temperature injectate.

• Complications occur in about 20 per cent of pulmonary artery catheterizations.

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