The central venous pressure can be estimated from findings on physical examination.

Patient position: recumbent, with trunk at a 45 degree angle


central venous pressure in cm H2O =

= (vertical height of jugular venous distention above the sternal angle in cm) + 5 cm


central venous pressure in mm Hg =

= (central venous pressure in cm H2O) / 1.36



• For a 45 degree angle, then the vertical height in cm = (distended length along the jugular vein ) / SQRT(2).

• 5 cm H2O is 3.65 mm Hg.


Normally the right atrial pressure is 2.5 to 6.0 mm Hg with a mean of 3.5. At pressures less than 3.7 mm Hg the jugular vein is not distended; a pressure of 6 mm Hg would show a jugular distention of 3.2 cm.


An elevated central venous pressure may be seen in right heart failure, constrictive pericarditis and obstruction of the superior vena cava.

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