What is the role of arterial blood gas (ABG) studies in the diagnosis of pneumothorax?

Updated: Apr 28, 2020
  • Author: Brian J Daley, MD, MBA, FACS, FCCP, CNSC; Chief Editor: Mary C Mancini, MD, PhD, MMM  more...
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Answer

Arterial blood gas (ABG) studies measure the degrees of acidemia, hypercarbia, and hypoxemia, the occurrence of which depends on the extent of cardiopulmonary compromise at the time of collection.

In patients with severe underlying lung disease and in those with persistent respiratory distress despite treatment, hypoxemia not only occurs with increased alveolar-arterial oxygen tension gradient, but it also tends to be more severe in patients with secondary spontaneous pneumothoraces.

ABG analysis does not replace physical diagnosis nor should treatment be delayed while awaiting results if symptomatic pneumothorax is suspected. However, ABG analysis may be useful in evaluating hypoxia and hypercarbia and respiratory acidosis.


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