Performing Arterial Blood Gases (ABGs)

Thanks to Geeky Medics for an excellent video demonstration

Equipment

  • Gloves
  • Alcohol wipe
  • Cotton wool/ gauze
  • ABG syringe (ensure it is pre-heparinised) and blue needle
  • Hand sanitiser

When performing any clinical procedure

  • ensure you do not rush
  • adopt adequate positioning so you and the patient is comfortable
  • have plenty of lighting
  • have ensured your equipment looks to be working
  • that you have access to an ABG machine (including a code if need be)
Procedure
  1. Introductions, consent, hand washing
  2. Consider whether a VBG would answer your question. ABGs are best kept to a minimum
  3. Check if the patient is on oxygen and their temperature. This will affect the readings.  
  4. Allen’s test. It is frequently not done in clinical practice for radial sampling due to the very good collateral supply to the hand and questionable reliability of the test according to UpToDate
  5. Clean the wrist with an alcohol swab and allow to dry
  6. [Given how painful arterial sampling can be, some doctors elect to infiltrate with some local anaesthetic]
  7. Attach the needle to the syringe and depress the plunger to allow heparin to fully coat
  8. Palpate radial artery (with non-dominant hand). Feel for the strongest part of the pulse and place your fingers either side
  9. Once happy, warn the patient and insert the needle at a roughly 30-degree angle until you see the flash of arterial blood in the needle
  10. Either allow the syringe to self-fill or withdraw on the plunger 
  11. Remove the needle and apply direct and firm pressure onto the puncture site with gauze for 5 minutes (can get the patient to do this!)
  12. Remove the needle and replace with the cap
  13. Expel any air bubble and ensure the sample is kept moving while you get to the analyser (within 10 minutes max but ideally straight away as the red cells continue to metabolise)

By Dr Zana Martin (FY2)

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