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How to Write an ABG

By Erin Watson-Price ; Updated July 27, 2017

Doctors use an arterial blood gas (ABG) test to determine a patient’s ability to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. The ABG test results indicate the pH, partial pressure of carbon dioxide and the bicarbonate content of the blood sample. Rather than write a long sentence describing the calculated measurements of each component or provide a vertical list of each measurement, technicians and doctors use an abbreviated method for stating all components as a single expression.

  1. Write the calculated pH level to the nearest one-hundredth. For example, a normal blood pH would be 7.39.

  2. Place a “/” behind the pH value. Continuing from the above example, the ABG now reads 7.39/.

  3. Write the calculated partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PaCO2) expressed as a whole number. The ABG now reads “7.39/42.”

  4. Place a “/” behind the PaCO2. The ABG now reads “7.39/42/.”

  5. Write the calculated partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2). The ABG now reads “7.39/42/80.”

  6. Place a “/” behind the PaO2. The ABG now reads “7.39/42/80/.”

  7. Write the calculated bicarbonate level. The ABG now read “7.39/42/80/24,” and is complete.

  8. Tip

    Translate the above written ABG as, “The pH of the blood is 7.39, containing a partial carbon dioxide pressure of 42 mmHg, a partial oxygen pressure of 80 mmHg, and a bicarbonate level of 24 mEq/L.”

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