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Arterial Blood Gas

Arterial blood gas levels can tell your doctor many things about your lungs.   More commonly referred to as ABG's, arterial blood gasses are normally obtained to see the oxygen, carbon dioxide, pH, and bicarbonate level in the blood.

How are blood gas samples obtained?

Blood Gases are normally obtained from an artery because arterial blood will give your doctor the best idea of how well your lungs are working.  The blood sample is obtained in much the same way that a standard blood sample is taken. The only difference is that most blood samples are taken from a vein and this sample will come from an artery. The amount of discomfort should be about the same as any blood sample that you have given in the past. This blood is usually drawn from your wrist or the inside of your arm just opposite of your elbow but, it may be drawn from other areas as well.

Difference between an Artery and a Vein

Arterial blood has come from the lungs and is on it's way to give oxygen to your muscles (or other tissues).   Venous blood (blood from a vein) is on it's way from the muscles and back to the lungs to pick up more oxygen and get rid of dangerous carbon dioxide (CO2).   Since it is difficult to know how much oxygen has been used after your blood reaches your muscles, arterial blood will give the doctor a much better impression about your lungs.

How often will I need an ABG

Your blood gas levels can change very quickly and only your doctor will be able to decide if an arterial blood gas is needed.   Most people, including people with chronic lung disease, will not need an ABG done on a regular basis.  Most doctors will want to find out your blood gas levels only if you have had a sudden and drastic change in your breathing.  However, sometimes your doctor will want to measure your blood gases a few days or weeks after certain treatments or therapies to monitor your progress.


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