Microcirculatory assessment in daily clinical practice – not yet ready but not too far!
Shock is characterized by an alteration in tissue perfusion that may lead to tissue hypoxia. Recent guidelines recommend aggressive and early resuscitation therapy, but mortality rate is still unacceptably high. Unfortunately, traditional clinical surrogates used to guide resuscitation therapy poorly correlate with microcirculatory blood flow, a key determinant of tissue perfusion. New techniques that directly assess microcirculatory perfusion at the bedside have emerged as a complement to traditional macrohemodynamic parameters. These techniques have been supported by several studies showing microcirculatory alterations in different clinical settings. In addition, these microcirculatory alterations are related with outcome and persist regardless of arterial pressure normalization, being a better predictor of organ dysfunction and mortality than global hemodynamic and laboratory parameters. These findings allowed the concept of “microcirculatory-goal directed therapy”, which is now in its preliminary phase, as the impact of many interventions still needs to be assessed. Finally, microcirculation assessment has also been explored in other medical fields such as perioperative, systemic arterial hypertension, heart failure, and hyperviscosity syndromes. In this review, we shortly present the characteristics of microcirculation and the main determinants of capillary blood flow, and we discuss advantages and limitations of some recently available techniques to evaluate microcirculation at the bedside, and how they could be useful for the general clinician in daily practice.