Log in
Asthma UK community forum
11,281 members17,547 posts

Has anybody had a blood gases test done?

For those of you that haven't had this done this is were a large needle is inserted in to the main artery usually in the wrist they draw blood it is only done by a doctor as it can dangerous if done incorrectly. It is done so they can get a accurate reading of the gas levels in your blood. I have had this done quite a few times and never want to have it done again i found it to be very painful which just increased my exacerbation through the stress of going through i would just like to her other people thoughts on this?

19 Replies

Hi Andy - yes have had ABG's done many many times and am currently having them done every few days due to sats issues post last admission. I totally agree with you about how it can make things but worse but unfortunately it gives the Drs essential accurate info that they can get any other way (unless u have a major line in already)

Most of my drs know they have 3 attempts then they have to give me a break i(f medically viable) but i have found that it is less painful when taken from the groin - not ideal i know .

I just wish there was a way that the info could be gathered without such a painful test.


Hi Andy, sorry to hear you have to have Arterial Blood Gases (ABG) taken. Like you I have had lots of these taken over the years but I believe and have been told that they are essential so they can get a better idea of how you are clinically because sometimes for example on a pulse oximeter the oxygen saturation percentage reading may be inaccurate and Arterial Blood Gases are much more accurate because they get other information from it like your Carbon Dioxide level which can be compromised in a severe asthma exacerbation. Sometimes I have an Arterial Line put in if they need to take many samples but this usually is only allowed in ITU/HDU I've had an A-Line put in resus and then had it removed when I have gone to the respiratory ward. Some people have protocols for when they have acute exacerbations; these may also include instructions like 'X number of attempts' before they give you a rest and ask someone else to try for example. A few times I have been injected with an anaesthetic such as Lidocaine which stings a bit but can lessen the pain of the needle going in but at the same time it can make getting a blood gas sample difficult cos it makes the artery less easy to feel. But they are some things to consider.

take care :)


I too ahte these, who dosn't!! but I know I am very stubborn when it comes to them now having had so many, my theory now is if I can say I dont want it (or argue with the dr more like!) then they cant do it, if my asthma is so bad that I physically cant do that then they go ahead... I know many will say about medically this and that and I am not daft I know all the reasons etc but at the end of the day its my body and I get to choose, as and when I am well enough!



snowy im with you you on this after the last time they had 4 attempts and still didn't get it i was on back to back nebs and they were considering putting me on magnesium drip but the stress of that made me even worse i told them no way were they doing anymore till i stabilised a little and after much consideration i came to the same conclusion as you!!!


I've only had arterial blood taken twice. The first time from my groin, the second (failed attempt) from my wrist and the blood was eventually taken from my groin. I would never consent to having it taken from my wrist again! It felt like being cruxified and I screamed the place down and I don't mind admitting it. Having it taken from the groin is, in my experience, much less painful. Not comfortable. But really nowhere near as painful as from the wrist. Not even close!!


I've had multiple ABGs. Unfortunately there isn't an alternative and they are important. They are painful, although I've found I've got a lot more used to them and can rationalise that the pain will end and it is for my benefit and that sort of makes it less painful if that makes sense.

As others have said, they're necessary as pulse ox isn't always accurate and they provide further important info. I know last time I had an emergency admission recently, the doctor looked at my pulse ox, said hmm, I don't believe that, did an ABG and then started running... :D So yes, important.

What I don't like is the bruising I'm often left with afterwards - if anyone knows a way to lessen that, I'd be grateful.


Im afraid arterial blood gases (ABG) are a nessecary evil when having a bad attack. it is the most accurate way the drs can tell how well you are doing and also if you are tiring form the attack by the build up of lactate in your blood and also if your retaining co2 and how low you o2 is.

They are nasty things but i would prefer to have them donw and drs know where they are and how well i am doing than refuse them and risk the possibilty of getting worse because drs didnt know how well i was.



I have had this several times the last time was when I was admitted 3 weeks ago, it took 5 attempts and yes its very painful but my attitude is thats something which is vital in allowing those that are caring me to get a better picture of what is going on, something which proved vital last time as it showed that the PH of my blood had been altered by the attack.


Ratty, have you tried Arnica? We use quite a lot of the Nelsons cream. It isn't as oily as others we have tried and it's brilliant for bruises! Soothes and takes some of the pain away from them too. I have one in the house and one in my handbag for my dd's bumps and bruises while we're out and about.


Must admit when i was taken to hospital just after xmas this was one thing i did not like. As it took several attempts one wrist the pulse was to weak and after 3 attempts went got a ""Doctor"" [so who was having a go the first time]. Then when they did get a sample from the other wrist i had a pain from my elbow to the end of my thumb for ages. One question does anyone think its the same pain you would get in your arm if you were having a heart attack?

take care

H Mama


I have had this done that much I have lost count. The worst one I have had was when I ws in labour with my 2.5 year old son. I was in an asthma attack for almost an hour and then I passed out and for a very short period I stopped breathing and was given an emergency c.section as blood gases was dangerously low and they decided baby needed to come out right know for my health. Since then I have only had it done once and that was only because I blacked out while suffering a chest infection. The pain is horrid and I have found that having a cold compress helps with the pain after it. They do get easier after so long and the pain starts to get more bearable the more you have done


It's one of the most painful experiences ever!!! I'm pretty good with pains but hate needles!

Was overnight in hospital a few years back and a doc came to my bed in the morning, didn't say who he was and what was going on, spread needle and stuff out next to me and reached out for my arm!!!!! Well, I completely lost it and told him to stick it up his own arm. Lol

it was ment to be an abg check but I obviously refused.

1st time I had it done was after I collapsed with an attack and was pretty much out of it.

I was too weak to scream the place down but boy did it hurt!! I must admit my 02 was very low according to the abg check and it must be important to have done.

But I have to be in a very bad state to have it done!

(I can still feel the pain thinking about it!)

love Lydia x


cheers guys at least i know im not alone in hating this procedure and its not just me being a wimp lol thanks for the advice.


maybe im un-hinged but i dont mind them all that much!

yeh they are uncomfortable but im ok with it, and know its important as when i was having trouble in the summer my blood gas seemed ok on the finger monitor but when they did a blood gas sample they were a bit alarmed. they didnt say why but they did say it showed up 'problems'. It even helped me as i was starting to wonder if i was making a fuss over nothing with all my coughing and no wheezing- was i just getting myself wound up?! When they said my blood gas came back surprisingly abnormal it made me realise i wasnt over-reacting and was right to go to a and e. Think i have had them on 4 occassions now.

The last time i had my blood gas done was in August. it took 6 attempts (is that a record?!) and i think 3 or 4 different members of staff. One was a gorgeous junior Dr whos boss kept sending him back to try again and made him use magic cream to numb me. He was completely embarrased that it was taking so many attempts, but I told him he was being stupid and just to get on with it and try again, but he insisted on the magic cream.... totally pointless (incase anyone gets the same offer!) as it only numbs the top layers of skin. Finally another Dr on the resp ward managed it.

Im learning that im not good for blood in hospitals- i have one brilliant vein and then it becomes an issue trying to get blood from anywhere else. They never seen able to get blood gas in one go, and often take 4 or 5 attempts to get blood once my good vein is used up.

Thankfully for them im not at all squeemish or worried by needles. Im happy to let them have as many goes as they like. The only thing im not a fan of is when they catch the nerves in my wrist and it makes my fingers twitch.

Whilst we are talking blood- does anyone else find nurses, particularly in GP surguries get a bit huffy when you automatically tell them where to try for blood? Almost every nurse goes for my right arm, but i *know* the massive vein in my left arm is the vein they always take from, so i politely say ""you'll probably want to go for my left arm not the right"" when they go to put the pillow under my right arm. I've had a couple recently get a bit 'oh really? i think i'll decide where is best!' on me before seeing my arms and realising i was telling the truth.... where as the hospital staff always treat me like 'your the expert on this stuff- its your body' and 'ah thanks for the tip' presumeably because they know my history and that im not stranger to having bloods done and cannulas put in etc?!


Self heal I'm glad I'm not the only one. I had blood tests last week and the GP nurse tried for half an hour to get a vein as she was tryin gin my right arm and wasn't having any of it that my left arm was the best arm. She ended up taking to me see the pathbotomist in the surgery for them to take the blood. She had a look and it took her 15 minutes. I am terrible fo rgetting blood and in the end she decided to resort to using a baby needle in the top of my left arm an dit bruised. First time ever I have bruised from having blood taken and the bruise is still there really dark still as well 7 days later. They need to start listening to us we know our bodies best and most of the time we go to the doctors or nurse with a self diagnosic of what is wron gand we always end up being right. I got to go doctors today as I think I have a chest infection and I am 100% certain I will walk out the surgury with anti-bios and get given a diagonsis of chest infection


asthma family i agree with you that it is about time they listened a little more but im beginning to find that times are changing they listen a hell of a alot more then they did twenty years ago and least they treat us like we have an illness now and not some minor infliction like hay-fever. Im slightly embittered because that sort attitude from the docters of twenty years ago coz my mother her life. So credit were it is due they are 5 hundred times better than they used to be. Saying that though u do still find those kind of QUACKS out there and i use that word quite deliberately!


My Hubby has infusions every 8 weeks in hospital, he always used to have problems with veins disappearing or collapsing when nurses tried to put the line in, it always took at least 6 attempts. This made my hubby worried about going in to have his meds and I'd have to take time off to go with him. Luckily there was a mess up at the hospital and he had to go to another unit. A doctor suggested an arm warmer first to warm the veins for 10 mins then put the line in. Line goes in first time now and all has been fine for over a year.We still go to the new unit which is far better. Back in tomorrow for next infusion and I no longer go with him.


I have written into my protocol, by my chest cons, that ABGs are not done unless my Sats are below 90%.

(Or I stop swearing at people, has he joked!)

I have real problems with my arteries from years of ABG abuse so now only done if really needed.

This is my protocol, others may be different and mine has stemmed from years of experience!

They are an esential test and yes they do hurt!



Hi Everyone,

I know ABG's are particularly painful but they are a necessity too. My daughter had so many samples taken from her wrist that her left wrist was damaged and it was the only one she would

allow them to try. It was also arranged that an anaesthetist would be called to take any blood gases as they tend to have more experience in this field. My daughter also had a Hickman line inserted for routine blood as her venous access was so poor again because of the numerous times she had blood taken. I hope this helps someone. Cheers. LIZ x


You may also like...