Arterial blood gas (ABG) testing is carried out to determine gas exchange levels in the blood related to respiratory, metabolic, and renal function. ABG testing poses many challenges. The goal of every clinical laboratory is to deliver accurate results within minimal turnaround time (TAT) while minimizing testing costs and complying with regulatory requirements. According to experts, accuracy in ABG testing can be ensured by
- Making analytical processes as standardized and finely calibrated as possible. Standardization in techniques is critical as variations in areas such as specimen preparation, TAT, handling, and analysis can affect test results.
- Maintaining sample integrity, operator safety, data accuracy, and workflow efficiency
Sample integrity can be maintained by preventing room air contamination and automating sample mixing processes. A recommended option is to use syringe with a vented tip cap which expels air and seals the sample even during measurement. Expelling air bubbles formed during the sample drawing process is also critical to preserve sample integrity. Proper sample mixing in the blood gas analyzer can prevent clots which could invalidate test results. Following Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) guidelines is important to ensure complete mixing of whole blood samples.
Accuracy in labeling of ABG samples is also crucial. Errors in labeling can have serious and even fatal consequences for patients. Automated data registration at the site of collection and use of barcode readers can reduce confusion. Improving the accuracy of patient identification has been identified as a principle National Patient Safety Goal for 2013 by the U.S. Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
Operator safety is a matter of utmost importance when drawing blood samples. Using blood collection sets with needle protection which is activated as the needle is removed would reduce risk of injury to the operator.
Finally, time and money can be saved by using an analyzer with an on-board automatic quality control cartridge that can be installed quickly and delivers all required blood gas reagents for a full array of tests. For instance, Medica’s EasyBloodGas analyzer combines calibrating gases and liquid buffers to create a convenient reagent module containing single-phase calibrants, eliminating the need for gas tanks and ensuring operation without interruption. The reagent module is also designed to collect waste, protecting the user from biological hazards. Moreover, the sample probe comes with a self-wiping feature that provides sample integrity and user safety. It is obvious that using modern ABG systems such as these can help clinical laboratories overcome many of the challenges of ABG testing and enhance operational efficiency.