The Relationship of CVP to Right Ventricular Preload

The significance of the CVP in terms of right ventricular preload

CVP in right ventricular preload

The CVP, as measured in the SVC, should be the same pressure as in in the right atrium; and if the tricuspid valve is doing its job properly, the right ventricular end-diastolic pressure should be equal to the CVP (because after all the right ventricle fills with the blood from the right atrium, under right atrial pressure).

Thus, CVP = right ventricular diastolic pressure… …right?...

Ventricular compliance and the relationship of filling volume and filling pressure

The filling pressure of the right ventricle is far from being a straightforward measure of its volume.

Increasing the pressure which fills a poorly compliant fibrotic ventricle will not result in much more filling. C

Conversely, a supple young ventricle will respond to increasing pressure by gladly filling with more blood.

relationship of right ventricular filling pressure and right ventricular filling volume

End-diastolic pressure only predicts preload when right ventricular compliance is normal.

Changes in end-diastolic pressure only predict changes in preload when right ventricular compliance is constant.

Relationship of central venous pressure to central venous volume

The central veins have a certain elasticity to them, and their stretchy response to fluid boluses was once thought to be predictive of right heart preload.

CVP changes in response to fluid challenges

Some thought that this "delta CVP" might have some sort of predicitve value when it comes to fluid responsiveness.

Surely, if you keep dumping fluid into your patient and the CVP fails to change dramatically, that must mean they have plenty of space left - plenty of "central venous reserve" - and thus more fluid boluses are required.

The CVP is a poor predictor of fluid responsiveness.

It turns out the CVP is really bad at predicting the patients' responsiveness to fluid challenges.

There are too many variables governing central venous pressure; it is never a perfect picture like this graph, where central venous compliance is predictable and constant. This has become evident from some high-quality evidence, and it has been known for some time. Indeed, so obvious the uselessness of CVP in this scenario, and so entrenched the practice of its use, that prominent authors have described a recent meta-analysis as a plea for common sense.

The detailed  scholarly arguments against the use of CVP in assessing fluid responsiveness were sufficiently interesting to merit a whole chapter of their own.


Most of this material can be found in From and Soni’s” Oh's Intensive Care Manual”, 6th Edition, as well as the CVC section from The ICU Book by Paul L Merino (3rd edition, 2007)

Marik, Paul E., and Rodrigo Cavallazzi. "Does the central venous pressure predict fluid responsiveness? An updated meta-analysis and a plea for some common sense*." Critical care medicine 41.7 (2013): 1774-1781.