Painful unanesthetized arterial puncture may produce transient hyperventilation, and this hyperventilation might alter resting values of arterial pH and PCO2. We investigated this possibility by comparing pH and PCO2 values of blood samples obtained by arterial puncture with values of arterialized venous blood obtained by a painless method. In 19 consecutive subjects, virtually no difference in pH or PCO2 resulted from an arterial puncture that could not be attributed to the inherent precision of the measuring instrument. Mean +/- SEM pH was identical (7.45 +/- 0.05) both before and during an arterial puncture, as was PCO2 (34.4 +/- 1.2 mm Hg). The variation (SD) in PCO2 within an individual subject was +/- 1.7 mm Hg, which was almost identical to the inherent precision of the Radiometer ABL-2 acid base laboratory (SD, +/- 1.32). We conclude that an unanesthetized arterial puncture provides an accurate measurement of resting pH and PCO2.