What Is Central Venous Pressure?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Central Venous Pressure (CVP) is a measurement of how much blood is returning to the heart through the thoracic vena cava. This provides important information about heart function which can be used to monitor a patient and adjust a care plan over time. Intensive care units may require continuous measurements of central venous pressure to assess patient health and generate a log of responses to treatment. Measuring equipment is available to facilitate safe and effective data collection and logging.

To determine central venous pressure, a care provider threads a catheter into the thoracic vena cava and connects it to a monitoring device. A simple water column can be used to measure changes in pressure over the course of the cardiac cycle. It may feed to a device that generates a digital or paper log which can be reviewed for information about the patient’s heart function. This recorded data can also be stored in the chart for future reference.

Knowing how much blood is returning to the heart can help determine how much blood the heart is able to pump out into circulation. Changes in central venous pressure may be a reflection of a variety of processes in the body, like dilation of blood vessels, drops in blood volume, and shifts in cardiac output. Specific patterns can be indicators of positive or negative responses to treatment like, like a boost in cardiac input in response to intravenous fluid therapy to raise the overall blood volume.


Before procedures, it may be necessary to check the central venous pressure to determine if the patient can tolerate the proposed treatment. If it appears unusually low or high, the patient may need to be stabilized first. Specific facilities may have protocols for handling these measurements and responding to changes in CVP. These standardize the treatment provided and increase the chances that patients receive timely and appropriate interventions in response to medical problems.

Placement of monitoring equipment requires the patient to hold still. A local anesthetic can reduce pain at the catheter insertion site and it’s also necessary to sterilize and drape the area to limit the risk of infection. Once the line is in place, the patient may need an X-ray to confirm that it is in the right position. Patients need to remain relatively inactive to avoid pulling the catheter out and the line may need to be periodically flushed to prevent clots.



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