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An arterial blood gas (ABG) study is a blood test that measures the acidity, or pH of your blood, as well as your oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. The test is used to evaluate the function of your lungs and how well they’re able to move oxygen into your blood while removing carbon dioxide, the waste product of respiration.
There are a number of reasons why your doctor may order an ABG. They include, but are not limited to:1
The components listed below represent the key features of an arterial blood gas (ABG) study. Each element has a different normal value and represents important aspects of a blood gas. The National Institute of Health reports the typical normal values below:1
Many times, ABGs are drawn in the hospital, but they can also be drawn in your doctor’s office. The blood used for the test is usually drawn from the radial artery in your wrist, but it can also be drawn from an artery in your forearm or groin.
Before the test, your doctor or other qualified health care practitioner may perform a modified Allen test, whereby pressure is applied to the arteries in your wrist for several seconds. This test checks to see if blood flow to your hand is within normal limits.2
Your doctor or other qualified health care practitioner will use a small needle when drawing the blood. You’re likely to experience more discomfort during this test than you would in the course of a regular blood draw from a vein, because arteries run deeper than veins and there are sensitive nerves in the underside of the wrist surrounding the insertion site. You may also feel lightheaded, faint, dizzy or nauseated during the procedure, but the test only lasts a few minutes and your discomfort should ease once it’s over.2
Your test results should be ready in as little as 15 minutes. Once your doctor reviews the results, she may order additional tests to help her formulate a diagnosis. Your test results will tell your doctor whether your lungs are getting enough oxygen, whether they’re removing enough carbon dioxide and whether your kidneys are functioning properly. If your arterial blood gas (ABG) study is abnormal, your doctor will consider the results, along with the results of your other tests. Only then will she be able to recommend a proper treatment plan moving forward.
For more information about having an arterial blood gas (ABG) study, talk to your primary care provider or hospitalist.
 Colduvell, Kathleen, RN, BSN, BA, CBC. Know Your ABGs: Arterial Blood Gases Explained. October 26, 2017.
 WebMD. What is an Arterial Blood Gas? Last reviewed October 4, 2017.