Arterial blood gas and pulse oximetry in initial management of patients with community-acquired pneumonia

J Gen Intern Med. 2001 Sep;16(9):590-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.2001.016009590.x.


Objective: To identify the factors associated with the use of arterial blood gas (ABG) and pulse oximetry (PO) in the initial management of patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) and arterial hypoxemia at presentation.

Participants: A total of 944 outpatients and 1,332 inpatients with clinical and radiographic evidence of CAP prospectively enrolled from 5 study sites in the United States and Canada.

Analyses: Separate multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to 1) compare measurement of ABG and PO within 48 hours of presentation across sites while controlling for patient differences, and 2) identify factors associated with arterial hypoxemia (PaO2 <60 mm Hg or SaO2 <90% for non-African Americans and <92% for African Americans) while breathing room air.

Results: Range of ABG use by site was from 0% to 6.4% (P =.06) for outpatients and from 49.2% to 77.3% for inpatients (P <.001), while PO use ranged from 9.4% to 57.8% for outpatients (P <.001) and from 47.9% to 85.1% for inpatients (P <.001). Differences among sites remained after controlling for patient demographic characteristics, comorbidity, and illness severity. In patients with 1 or more measurements of oxygenation at presentation, hypoxemia was independently associated with 6 risk factors: age >30 years (odds ratio [OR], 3.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.7 to 5.9), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (OR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.4 to 2.6), congestive heart failure (OR, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.0 to 2.1), respiratory rate >24 per minute (OR, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.8 to 3.0), altered mental status (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.3), and chest radiographic infiltrate involving >1 lobe (OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.7 to 2.9). The prevalence of hypoxemia among those tested ranged from 13% for inpatients with no risk factors to 54.6% for inpatients with > or =3 risk factors. Of the 210 outpatients who had > or =2 of these risk factors, only 64 (30.5%) had either an ABG or PO performed. In the 48 outpatients tested without supplemental O2 with > or =2 risk factors 8.3% were hypoxemic.

Conclusions: In the initial management of CAP, use of ABG and PO varied widely across sites. Increasing the assessment of arterial oxygenation among patients with CAP is likely to increase the detection of arterial hypoxemia, particularly among outpatients.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Gas Analysis / adverse effects
  • Community-Acquired Infections / blood
  • Community-Acquired Infections / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / blood*
  • Hypoxia / therapy
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oximetry / adverse effects
  • Pneumonia / blood*
  • Pneumonia / diagnostic imaging
  • Pneumonia / microbiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiography
  • Risk Factors