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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Tests and Exams > Arterial Blood Gases: Results and Values
      Category : Health Centers > Respiratory System (Lungs and Breathing)

Arterial Blood Gases

Alternate Names : ABG, Arterial Blood GAS

Arterial Blood Gases | Preparation & Expectations | Results and Values

What do the test results mean?

There are several values that are measured in an ABG. Each of the values has a set range that is considered to be within healthy limits. If any of the main values becomes severely abnormal, the person may die.

pH Level

The pH is one of the main parts of this test. This is a measure of the level of acid in the blood. Acid levels may be too high with:

  • kidney failure or damage
  • certain cases of uncontrolled diabetes
  • exposure to certain toxic substances, such as a drug overdose
  • shock, which may occur from heart failure, serious infections, or massive blood or fluid loss
  • breathing troubles, such as lung infections, asthma, emphysema, or not breathing fast enough
  • certain medicines
  • Acid levels may be too low from:

  • dehydration
  • certain types of kidney problems
  • breathing too fast, such as when a person has a panic disorder
  • excessive vomiting
  • salt imbalances, which may result from a hormone problem in the body
  • certain medicines
  • If the pH is abnormal, the other parts of the test can help find out the reason. For example, if the acid level in the body is too high, it could be from breathing or metabolism problems. It is crucial to know what is causing the high acid level so that the best treatment can be chosen. If the acid level is too high because of a breathing problem, the person may need extra oxygen or even a ventilator. If the acid level is too high from metabolism problems, a person may need to be hooked up to a blood-filtering machine or may need antibiotics or other medicines.

    Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Levels

    Other parts of the test are the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood. The job of the lungs is to take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide. If some type of breathing or respiratory problem is present, these values will be abnormal. The oxygen level can also be used to check if a person is getting enough oxygen or whether they need extra oxygen.

    Bicarbonate Level

    The part of the test that measures the bicarbonate level in the blood will determine whether there is a metabolism problem.

    Other minor parts of the test may be monitored by a doctor in certain situations.

    The doctor must look at the pH, breathing, and metabolic parts of the test as a whole. This allows the doctor to sort out different problems in a person's body.

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    Arterial Blood Gases: Preparation & Expectations


    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 10/10/02

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