Background: Fluid therapy remains a cornerstone of therapy in shock states. However, fluid overloading ultimately results in oedema formation which is related to excess morbidity and mortality. Handheld microscopes are now frequently used to study the sublingual microcirculation. As a corollary, these devices measure focal distance, or surface to capillary distance. Physiologically, this could represent a microvascular index of oedema formation and could have the potential to guide fluid therapy. This potential tool should be investigated, especially given the frequently reported lack of coherence between systemic and microvascular parameters in the critically ill. Therefore, we set out to assess the correlation between microvascular focal distance and systemic indices of oedema formation, specifically fluid balance and weight gain. Methods: Following ex vivo testing of focal distance measurement reliability, we conducted a prospective observational cohort study in patients admitted to the intensive care unit of our university teaching hospital. We determined surface to capillary distance using sidestream dark field (SDF) and incident dark field (IDF) imaging by assessing the focal distance point or object distance range at which a sharp recording could be made. Measurements were performed in post-cardiac surgery patients and in patients following emergency admission at two time points separated by at least several hours. Data on fluid balance, weight and weight gain were collected simultaneously. Results: Sixty patients were included. The focal setting, focus point for SDF and the object distance range for IDF did not differ significantly between time points. Focus was not correlated with difference in fluid balance or weight gain. Conclusions: There is a lack of coherence between surface to capillary distance as determined by SDF or IDF imaging and fluid balance or weight gain. Thus, focal distance as a microvascular index of oedema formation cannot currently be used as a proxy for systemic indices of oedema formation. However, given the lack of coherence, further research should determine whether focal distance may provide better guidance for fluid therapy than traditional markers of overzealous fluid administration.