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Blood gas analysis

Blood gas analysis

Blood gas analysis, also called arterial blood gas (ABG) analysis, is a means of determining the amount of oxygen or carbon dioxide being carried in the blood, and in some cases, of discovering the identity of a toxic gas, such as carbon monoxide, that may be present. In addition, the determination can be made as to whether the blood is too acidic or too alkaline, which may help the physician in his/her diagnosis.

An ABG analysis evaluates how effectively the lungs are delivering oxygen to the blood and how efficiently they are eliminating carbon dioxide from it. The test also indicates how well the lungs and kidneys are interacting to maintain normal blood pH (acid-base balance). Blood gas studies are usually performed to assess respiratory disease and other conditions that may affect the lungs, and to manage patients receiving oxygen therapy. In addition, the acid-base component of the test provides information on kidney function.

Among other functions, blood carries oxygen to the bodys tissues and removes carbon dioxide. The blood laden with carbon dioxide passes through the right side of the heart into the lungs and exchanges the carbon dioxide for fresh oxygen. The oxygenated blood is then pumped by the left side of the heart out into the body to repeat the cycle.

The red blood cells, or erythrocytes, carry the blood gases. Hemoglobin, the substance that gives blood its red color, is the molecular substance in the erythrocyte that attaches to oxygen and exchanges it for carbon dioxide.

Carbon monoxide, a colorless, very toxic gas, can displace oxygen in the bloodstream. Hemoglobin has approximately 12 times the affinity for carbon monoxide as it does for oxygen, so it will pick up carbon monoxide if both gases are present. This means that, in this case, the body does not get the oxygen it needs, and death will eventually occur.

Testing blood gases is a means to determine whether an acid-base (biochemical) disturbance is of respiratory or metabolic origin. Respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, or severe asthma can cause the blood to become more acid. Respiratory conditions such as aspirin toxicity, strenuous exercise, fever, or overactive thyroid can cause the blood to be more alkaline. Kidney failure, burns, heart attack, or starvation are the metabolic reasons for the blood to become acid, and liver failure, vomiting, ulcer, or cystic fibrosis cause metabolic alkaline blood.

To perform an ABG analysis, blood is obtained by arterial puncture (usually in the wrist, although it could be in the groin or arm) or from an arterial line already in place. A technician then collects the blood with a small sterile needle attached to a disposable syringe. After the blood is drawn, the sample must be transported to the laboratory as soon as possible for analysis.

When the blood has been drawn, the technician or the patient applies pressure to the puncture site for 10 to 15 minutes to stop the bleeding, and then places a dressing over the puncture. Risks are very low when the test is performed correctly, but common concerns include bleeding or bruising at the site.

Normal blood gas values are as follows:

  • Partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2): 10 to 13 kilopascals (75 to 100 millimeters of mercury),
  • Partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PaCO2): 5 to 6 kilopascals (35 to 45 millimeters of mercury),
  • Oxygen content (O2 CT): 15% to 23%,
  • Oxygen saturation (SaO2): 94% to 100%,
  • Bicarbonate (HCO3): 22 to 26 milliequivalents/liter, where one milliequivalent is the mass in grams of a substance that will react with 6.022 × 1023 electrons and milli denotes that the equivalent is divided by 1,000, and
  • pH: 7.35 to 7.45.

Values that differ from those listed above may indicate respiratory, metabolic, or kidney disease. These results also may be abnormal if the patient has experienced trauma that affects breathing (especially head and neck injuries). Disorders such as anemia that affect the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, can produce an abnormally low oxygen content value.

See also Bronchitis; Circulatory system.

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Blood Gas Analysis

Blood Gas Analysis

Definition

Blood gas analysis, also called arterial blood gas (ABG) analysis, is a test which measures the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, as well as the acidity (pH) of the blood.

Purpose

An ABG analysis evaluates how effectively the lungs are delivering oxygen to the blood and how efficiently they are eliminating carbon dioxide from it. The test also indicates how well the lungs and kidneys are interacting to maintain normal blood pH (acid-base balance). Blood gas studies are usually done to assess respiratory disease and other conditions that may affect the lungs, and to manage patients receiving oxygen therapy (respiratory therapy). In addition, the acid-base component of the test provides information on kidney function.

Description

Blood gas analysis is performed on blood from an artery. It measures the partial pressures of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, as well as oxygen content, oxygen saturation, bicarbonate content, and blood pH.

Oxygen in the lungs is carried to the tissues through the bloodstream, but only a small amount of this oxygen can actually dissolve in arterial blood. How much dissolves depends on the partial pressure of the oxygen (the pressure that the gas exerts on the walls of the arteries). Therefore, testing the partial pressure of oxygen is actually measuring how much oxygen the lungs are delivering to the blood. Carbon dioxide is released into the blood as a by-product of cell metabolism. The partial carbon dioxide pressure indicates how well the lungs are eliminating this carbon dioxide.

The remainder of oxygen that is not dissolved in the blood combines with hemoglobin, a proteiniron compound found in the red blood cells. The oxygen content measurement in an ABG analysis indicates how much oxygen is combined with the hemoglobin. A related value is the oxygen saturation, which compares the amount of oxygen actually combined with hemoglobin to the total amount of oxygen that the hemoglobin is capable of combining with.

KEY TERMS

Acid-base balance The condition that exists when the body's carbonic acid-bicarbonate buffer system is in equilibrium, helping to maintain the blood pH at a normal level of 7.35-7.45.

Hemoglobin A proteiniron compound in red blood cells that functions primarily in carrying oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body.

pH A measure of the acidity of a solution. Normal blood pH ranges from 7.35-7.45.

Carbon dioxide dissolves more readily in the blood than oxygen does, primarily forming bicarbonate and smaller amounts of carbonic acid. When present in normal amounts, the ratio of carbonic acid to bicarbonate creates an acid-base balance in the blood, helping to keep the pH at a level where the body's cellular functions are most efficient. The lungs and kidneys both participate in maintaining the carbonic acid-bicarbonate balance. The lungs control the carbonic acid level and the kidneys regulate the bicarbonate. If either organ is not functioning properly, an acid-base imbalance can result. Determination of bicarbonate and pH levels, then, aids in diagnosing the cause of abnormal blood gas values.

The procedure

The blood sample is obtained by arterial puncture (usually in the wrist, although it could be in the groin or arm) or from an arterial line already in place. If a puncture is needed, the skin over the artery is cleaned with an antiseptic. A technician then collects the blood with a small sterile needle attached to a disposable syringe. The patient may feel a brief throbbing or cramping at the site of the puncture. After the blood is drawn, the sample must be transported to the laboratory as soon as possible for analysis.

Preparation

There are no special preparations. Patients have no restrictions on drinking or eating before the test. If the patient is receiving oxygen, the oxygen concentration must remain the same for 20 minutes before the test; if the test is to be taken without oxygen, the gas must be turned off for 20 minutes before the test is taken. The patient should breathe normally during the test.

Aftercare

After the blood has been taken, the technician or the patient applies pressure to the puncture site for 10-15 minutes to stop the bleeding, and then places a dressing over the puncture.The patient should rest quietly while applying the pressure to the puncture site. Health care workers will observe the patient for signs of bleeding or circulation problems

Risks

Risks are very low when the test is done correctly. Risks include bleeding or bruising at the site, or delayed bleeding from the site. Very rarely, there may be a problem with circulation in the puncture area.

Normal results

Normal blood gas values are as follows:

  • partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2): 75-100 mm Hg
  • partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PaCO2): 35-45 mm Hg
  • oxygen content (O2CT): 15-23%
  • oxygen saturation (SaO2): 94-100%
  • bicarbonate (HCO3): 22-26 mEq/liter
  • pH: 7.35-7.45

Abnormal results

Values that differ from those listed above may indicate respiratory, metabolic, or kidney disease. These results also may be abnormal if the patient has experienced trauma that may affect breathing (especially head and neck injuries). Disorders, such as anemia, that affect the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, can produce an abnormally low oxygen content value.

Resources

BOOKS

Thompson, June, et al. Mosby's Clinical Nursing. 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 1997.

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"Blood Gas Analysis." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Blood Gas Analysis." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/blood-gas-analysis