The administration of a fluid bolus is done frequently in the perioperative period to increase the cardiac output. Yet fluid loading fails to increase the cardiac output in more than 50% of critically ill and surgical patients. The assessment of fluid responsiveness (the slope of the left ventricular function curve) prior to fluid administration may thus not only help in detecting patients in need of fluids but may also prevent unnecessary and harmful fluid overload. Unfortunately, commonly used hemodynamic parameters, including the cardiac output itself, are poor predictors of fluid responsiveness, which is best assessed by functional hemodynamic parameters. These dynamic parameters reflect the response of cardiac output to a preload-modifying maneuver (for example, a mechanical breath or passive leg-raising), thus providing information about fluid responsiveness without the actual administration of fluids. All dynamic parameters, which include the respiratory variations in systolic blood pressure, pulse pressure, stroke volume and plethysmographic waveform, have been repeatedly shown to be superior to commonly used static preload parameters in predicting the response to fluid loading. Within their respective limitations, functional hemodynamic parameters should be used to guide fluid therapy as part of or independently of goal-directed therapy strategies in the perioperative period.