How to interpret arterial blood gas results
Intended for healthcare professionals
how to series    

How to interpret arterial blood gas results

Richard Hatchett Senior nurse editor, RCNi, London, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To enhance your knowledge of the steps involved in arterial blood gas analysis

  • To understand the altered physiology and compensatory mechanisms associated with arterial blood gas results

  • To recognise the importance of considering the patient’s clinical context when interpreting their arterial blood gas results

Arterial blood gas analysis is designed to measure the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, as well as the acid-base (pH) balance. Arterial blood gas analysis can assist healthcare professionals to evaluate respiration, circulation and metabolic processes in deteriorating patients. Arterial blood gas analysis is usually undertaken by a trained healthcare professional where patients are acutely unwell or deteriorating.

• Nurses should be aware of the normal arterial blood gas ranges, as well as those that may have altered as part of a patient’s long-term condition, to enable them to assess any abnormalities.

• A three-stage approach to the interpretation of arterial blood gas results is required: identify any alterations in the pH; identify the possible cause of these alterations; and assess whether any compensatory mechanisms are occurring within the body.

• Nurses should refer to the patient’s clinical presentation, history, and other signs and symptoms to ensure they consider the overall clinical context when interpreting arterial blood gas results.

Reflective activity

‘How to’ articles can help to update your practice and ensure it remains evidence based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:

• How this article might enhance your practice when undertaking a holistic assessment of a deteriorating patient.

• How you could use this information to educate nursing students or your colleagues on the appropriate technique and evidence base for interpreting arterial blood gas results.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2022.e11991

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Hatchett R (2022) How to interpret arterial blood gas results. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2022.e11991


Please note that information provided by Nursing Standard is not sufficient to make the reader competent to perform the task. All clinical skills should be formally assessed according to local policy and procedures. It is the nurse’s responsibility to ensure their practice remains up to date and reflects the latest evidence

Published online: 28 July 2022

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