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.
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.
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 protein—iron 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.
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 protein—iron 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.