You obtain a venous blood gas (VBG) on a patient with a COPD exacerbation because you are concerned about hypercarbia. You get a value of 55 mmHg. How correlative is that compared to an arterial blood gas (ABG)?

A small study (n=89) published in American Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2012 found that with a cutoff of pCO2 < 45 mmHg, the venous pCO2 is 100% sensitive in ruling out arterial hypercarbia. When the pCO2 was ≥ 45 mmHg, the VBG was less correlative, and they advise checking an ABG at this time.

Below is a review by Dr. Michelle Reina (EM resident at Univ of Utah) and Dr. Rob Bryant (Intermountain Medical Center in Utah) of the VBG vs ABG correlative data, along with a proposed algorithm on what to do with patients with COPD exacerbation:

Taken from: (Michele Lin 1/31/13)