Venous vs arterial blood gases in the assessment of patients presenting with an exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Am J Emerg Med. 2012 Jul;30(6):896-900. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2011.06.011. Epub 2011 Sep 9.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the clinical correlation between arterial and venous blood gas (VBG) values in patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) with acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Methods: A prospective study of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease presenting to the ED with acute ventilatory compromise was done. Patients were included if their attending physician considered arterial blood gas sampling important in their initial assessment. Data from arterial and venous samples were compared using Spearman correlation and bias plot (Bland-Altman) methods.

Results: Ninety-four patients were enrolled in the study. Eighty-nine patients had complete data sets for analysis. Arterial hypercarbia was present in 30 patients (33.7%; range, 51-140.19 mm Hg). All cases of arterial hypercarbia were detected using VBG sampling when a screening cutoff of 45 mm Hg was applied (sensitivity, 100%; 95% confidence interval, 88.7%-100% and specificity, 34%; 95% confidence interval, 23.1%-46.6%). Bias plot revealed moderate agreement between arterial and venous Pco(2) with an average difference of 8.6 mm Hg and 95% limits of agreement of -7.84 to 25.05 mm Hg. For pH, mean difference between each group was 0.039 (range, -0.12 to 0.03). Linear regression analysis for pH demonstrated very close equivalence with a regression coefficient of 0.955, and Spearman correlation showed significant correlation of 0.826 (P = .001).

Conclusion: Venous pH and HCO(3) values show excellent correlation with arterial values. Using a previously validated screening cutoff of 45 mm Hg, venous CO(2) has 100% sensitivity in detecting arterial hypercarbia. There is insufficient agreement between venous and arterial CO(2) for VBG to replace arterial blood gas in determining the degree of hypercarbia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arteries*
  • Blood Gas Analysis / methods*
  • Blood Specimen Collection / methods*
  • Carbon Dioxide / blood
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / blood*
  • Veins*


  • Carbon Dioxide