Arterial Blood Gas Tests
An arterial blood gas (ABG) is a blood test that is performed using blood from an artery. It involves puncturing an artery with a thin needle and syringe and drawing a small volume of blood. The most common puncture site is the radial artery at the wrist, but sometimes the femoral artery in the groin or other sites are used. The blood can also be drawn from an arterial catheter. Pulse oximetry plus transcutaneous carbon dioxide measurement is an alternative method of obtaining similar information as well. An ABG is a test that measures the arterial oxygen tension (PaO2), carbon dioxide tension (PaCO2), and acidity (pH). In addition, arterial oxyhemoglobin saturation (SaO2) can be determined. Such information is vital when caring for patients with critical illness or respiratory disease. As a result, the ABG is one of the most common tests performed on patients in intensive care units (ICUs).
The test is used to determine the pH of the blood, the partial pressure of carbon dioxide and oxygen, and the bicarbonate level. Many blood gas analyzers will also report concentrations of lactate, hemoglobin, several electrolytes, oxyhemoglobin, carboxyhemoglobin and methemoglobin. ABG testing is mainly used in pulmonology and critical care medicine to determine gas exchanges which reflect gas exchange across the alveolar-capillary membrane. ABG testing also has a variety of applications in other areas of medicine. Combinations of disorders can be complex and difficult to interpret, so calculators, nomograms, and rules of thumb are commonly used.
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