Mixed (SvO2) or central (ScvO2) venous oxygen saturation is frequently used to evaluate the adequacy of global tissue oxy- genation in critically ill patients. The aim of this review is to discuss the literature regarding S(c)vO2 measurement and S(c)vO2 - directed therapy. Both reductions in oxygen delivery and increases in oxygen consumption without subsequent adequate rise in cardiac output can result in low S(c)vO2. Unfortunately, normal or high values do not guarantee adequate tissue oxygenation. The use of central instead of mixed venous saturation seems to be acceptable in the early hours of resuscitation of critically ill patients. Following initial resuscitation however, ScvO2 can probably act only as a warning signal and treatment in this phase should be targeted at optimization of SvO2 instead of ScvO2. To guide treatment of patients with a low venous saturation, diagnosis and treatment- algorithms are available.
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