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An arterial blood gas (ABG) test measures the acidity (pH) and the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood from an artery. This test is used to check how well your lungs are able to move oxygen into the blood and remove carbon dioxide from the blood.
As blood passes through your lungs, oxygen moves into the blood while carbon dioxide moves out of the blood into the lungs. An ABG test uses blood drawn from an artery, where the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels can be measured before they enter body tissues. An ABG measures:
Blood for an ABG test is taken from an artery. Most other blood tests are done on a sample of blood taken from a vein, after the blood has already passed through the body's tissues where the oxygen is used up and carbon dioxide is produced.
An arterial blood gas (ABG) test is done to:
Tell your doctor if you:
If you are on oxygen therapy, the oxygen may be turned off for 20 minutes before the blood test. This is called a "room air" test. If you can't breathe without the oxygen, the oxygen will not be turned off.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form( What is a PDF document? ).
A sample of blood from an artery is usually taken from the inside of the wrist (radial artery), but it can also be taken from an artery in the groin (femoral artery) or on the inside of the arm above the elbow crease (brachial artery). You will be seated with your arm extended and your wrist resting on a small pillow. The health professional drawing the blood may rotate your hand back and forth and feel for a pulse in your wrist.
A procedure called the Allen test may be done to ensure that blood flow to your hand is normal. An arterial blood gas (ABG) test will not be done on an arm used for dialysis or if there is an infection or inflammation in the area of the puncture site.
The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:
Collecting blood from an artery is more painful than collecting it from a vein because the arteries are deeper and are protected by nerves.
There is little chance of a problem from having a blood sample taken from an artery.
Though problems are rare, be careful with the arm or leg that had the blood draw. Do not lift or carry objects for about 24 hours after you have had blood drawn from an artery.
An arterial blood gas (ABG) test measures the acidity (pH) and levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab and depend upon the elevation above sea level. Your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.
Results are usually available right away.
Partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2):
Greater than 80 mm Hg (greater than 10.6 kPa)
Partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PaCO2):
35–45 mm Hg (4.6–5.9 kPa)
22–26 mEq/L (22–26 mmol/L)
Oxygen content (O2CT):
15–22 mL per 100 mL of blood (6.6–9.7 mmol/L)
Oxygen saturation (O2Sat):
The normal values for children may differ from the adult values listed here.
The concentration of oxygen being breathed, called the fraction of inhaled oxygen (FiO2), is also usually reported. This is only useful if you are receiving oxygen therapy from a tank or are on a ventilator.
Many conditions can change blood gas levels. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your symptoms and past health.
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include the following:
Fischbach F, Dunning MB III (2015). A Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 9th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health.
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
Davis MD, et al. (2013). AARC clinical practice guideline: Blood gas analysis and hemoximetry: 2013. Respiratory Care, 58(10): 1694–1703. DOI: 10.4187/respcare.02786. Accessed March 12, 2014.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Current as ofSeptember 5, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as of:
September 5, 2018
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine
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