What are your experiences of having blood gases taken?

6 years ago I had an unfortunate year and ended up in hospital 5 times with breathing problems (once it was twice in one day) this was due to the fact that I was on the wrong medication which finally got sorted but the one thing that really got my back up was the way I was treated when one of the young doctors came to take my blood gases which was just short of G.B.H ... and he was so rude to me too, so I'm interested to know if you have had any bad or good experiences of having blood gases taken, and did they take it from your wrist or from the groin area.

47 Replies

I have only had this done once and they took it from my finger like they do for children . I am a ex senior phlebotomist and I have held the hands of many people having blood gases done and I think it is sheer torture .in this day and age you would think there would be a less painfull way of doing it

Thankyou for replying to this ... so Im not just a wimp with an aversion to needles....

Happy Days

I could hug you.

I never had it done in my finger they tried 13 times in my wrists and groun when I was 12

ive had it done a fue times all but once it wasnt to bad the only time it was was a triany that didnt have a clue he keept hitting the nerve in my wrist i could of killed him i endded up tilling him to get someone eals to do it the nurce came and job done in 30 secounds

Im all for the nurses doing this not the doctors the nurses have so much more patience.

Had this done last week, very patient nurse tried three times, then gave up.Dr then did it in one go no problem.I found it uncomfortable, but that only lasted a short time, had no bruising.

I have had this done several times, mostlly the doc taking the bllods has been very gentle saying that it is painful and he/she understands that. I think that helps, rather than them going in there full guns blazing. M

hi what are blood gases taken for.im copd moderate and after reading the above i dont fancy that,gps nurse did my blood kast week usual way /my arm/came back ok cept she said my white blood cells not rite and dc wants me have it done again in 3week/she didnt say why ,

They're taken to measure the amount of oxygen and CO2 in the blood, and also your PH level (acid/alkaline levels).

Yes the ones that take the time and understand are the ones you want, it makes all the difference.

I have have had it done in my wrist in A&E (ouch) but when you have lung function test done they do it in your ear lobe, why? Keep smiling.

Carole x

hi so the 1 last week in my arm is that standard.dont understand my white blood cells bein not rite am aving it done again in 3 week.when do u think i will have a lung function test.nurse last week at gps said i had a lung age of 90yr old im 64 this yr.dont no why they tell u that i didnt ask,told her i stopped cigs at xmas on diagonose of this lousy disease,she said we cant tell if a person is smoking or not going of blood tests.

I had it done nearly every day when in hospital, some doctors didn't bother me at all, painless, but one doctor was awful had 4 goes and it really hurt, he was going to give up tried blaming it on my thin wrists, we decided one more go and he managed it. Both wrists were bruised terribly.

Lib x

Hi - I agree that the wrist method is grim - and my dad had it doen fromt he groin once which is nt in any way better! The Respiratory Nurses do the earlobe test, but apparently the instrument they put the sample in costs £12,000, so may be that it why it is not so available. I think it would be great for A & E Depts to have at least one each. (They put a cream on your ear lobe whihc is a vasodilator, wait 20 minutes then just get a sample with a 'stabber' like the ones used for getting blood for a diabetic blood sugar test). The blood gas test tells them all sorts of things about what is going on with gas exchange in your lungs, gives an accurate oxygen level but also carbon dioxide levels etc. which all go towards deciding if the treatment you are getting is appropriate. If you are on oxygen they are keen to avoid carbon dioxide retention for example. Blood gas tests need to be done immediately, it is not the sort of thing which can be sent off for results.


obviously from what you've said it seems to be a cost issue, I know new doctors have to practice on someone but sometimes I feel WHY ME perhaps i've just had a lot of bad experiences but the two good ones I had were done by a nurse who just knew how to go about it and totally put me at ease and took her time, it made all the difference.

Ive only ever had it done via my ear lobe. I guess its taken from wrist (arterial blood test) in more critical situations as its more accurate though much more painful - which is why they do it in A+E but just rely on earlobe blood during LFTs. I suppose taking a small amount from the ear gives a more general picture.

I am going to be incredibly ignorant. I have had blood taken many times, for different things. So what is the difference between this and blood gases, Are they just for COPD? Please tell me.

hi good question there im not syre ,im copd moderate and finding out slowly along the way wats coming ugh dont fancy half of this at all

Like most here I have had my wrist done on lots of occasions, the first time was by a young doctor who warned me that it was going to hurt but was a vital job that had to be done, he took the time to explain why and how, not pleasant but the information it gives can be life saving.

I am afraid it's a 'Grin and bare it' job and it only hurt for a few seconds.

I have had blood gases taken from an artery so many times I have lost count....from my wrist usually and once from my groin.

The level of discomfort I found depends on the person who is taking the blood..some make it nearly painless...but as they say its for your own good.

Hi silkx, just spent over a week in hosp and still have an enormous purple bruise on my wrist for 8 day ago caused by 3 aborted attempts. I think they see it as an opportunity for a student or inexperienced doctor to have a go. I absolutely hate it, it's not what I would call painful, but the feeling is the most horrible thing. The eventually got it from my other arm, halfway up, no bruise, no problem. Whilst in hosp I had it done twice via the ear which is completely painless but not as accurate, apparently. Libby

An explanation can be found here:-


Oh I know the feeling so well, I would rather have a baby than have this done again, but perhaps im just a wimp when it comes to needles in wrists.

I've had my wrist done a couple of ties and hardly felt a thing. They used a small needle each time so I think that helps.

ive had it done 5 times in my wrist. wasnt painfull. i think like this its got to be done so just get on with it.

You will probably think that I am as thick as two short planks but I don't know what blood gases are.

I have had arterial blood taken, a couple of times, from the veins in my inner wrist and I have to say that it was painful. Both times the blood was taken I wondered why but was too 'out of it' to ask.

Would the arterial blood have been taken to show blood gases?



I too have absolutely no idea what this this is. I have bloods taken every month but this is obviously something very different. I have never had it taken from my wrist or ear lobe. I those an oximeter told you your O2 levels.

Marie x

exactly what pepsicoley said is blood gases

Yes this is blood gases ... good thing you were out of it, Silk x

Forgive me if I'm mistaken but I always thought arterial gases were done on blood taken from an artery, not a vein. Arteries are much bigger and they tend to use a larger needle which can be extremely painful in the wrong hands or virtually painless in skilled hands. Don't be afraid to insist on the latter if anyone is hurting you.

You are completely right the arteries in the wrist are where they are usually taken and yes the needle is on the large size the problem they seem to have is finding the artery without hitting a nerve and as you so rightly said in skilled hands it is not so painful.

I would just like to say that I hope I haven't scared anyone here by putting up this question, blood gases are a necessity sometimes and can save time and your life, it is something that does have to be done sometimes, my experiences are mine and yours are yours we are all different and have different pain thresholds, please just ask if you ever have to have blood gases done that they please take their time to explain things to you because it really helps the outcome and the memory afterwards.

the thought of this terrifies me - I am afraid I would just refuse my pain level is very low and I am also very nervous so no way maybe ear lobe but that is it

@Blue22 Please don't be terrified this wasn't meant to scare anyone I was just asking what others had experienced when having the test done which is only usually done if it is really needed.

Silk x

Hi Blue 22

If I can manage to have it done without slapping whoever is doing it I bet you can too. You say that you have a very low pain level - so do I.

If you have to have it done then you will be fine.

Love and hugs



Thank you I get your point - just hope and pray I will not need it BUT if I do well then I guess I will have to bite the bullit

My understanding is that, as the arteries are buried deep in the wrist, it is more difficult to locate them and retrieve arterial blood, i.e. that freshly oxygenated blood that pumps from lungs, via heart, around the body. It is needed, as someone has already mentioned, so that they can calculate how much oxygen you have in your system and whether or not you retain CO2. If it falls below a certain level, then you may require oxygen therapy; however if you retain CO2, then it would be dangerous to put you on oxygen.

I have had it done and I can think of other ways of enjoying an afternoon, but it was and is necessary. Yes it was painful and I did have bruised wrists for a few days, but it needed to be done. It took several goes for them to locate an artery in my wrist - if I recall, they tried both wrists - but then sometimes nurses / doctors have difficulty taking blood from my veins for normal blood tests.

I have friends who have had the ear lobe jobby, but that seems to have been used by those who had home visits as opposed to visiting hospital or wherever.

Sorry but I do think it is a painful experience and I do believe the majority of doctors and nurses know this. I no it is a necessity and I have had to have it done several times and depending on how experienced the medic is as to the pain. If they find the vein quickly then the pain is over quick but it s obviously not always easy and that is when the pain becomes a problem. You just have to remember this does gve them the information to help you. x

I had this done from my wrist whilst in hospital with pneumonia. A doctor came to do it and warned me that it would be more painful than an ordinary blood test. She was right and I 'hit the roof' albeit only for a few seconds. More recently, I was with my daughter in A & E and a doctor took blood from her wrist to test for blood gases. My daughter said she hardly felt it and I said she was lucky because that wasn't my experience! Her doctor then said that it's only painful when the needle hits a nerve (as Silkx said earlier) before sinking into the artery itself.

So basically if the medic doing it is careful enough it will not cause the patient any pain. Very hit and miss isn't it? I don't think it's good enough for doctors or nurses just to warn you it's going to be painful thereby letting themselves off the hook. My answer to that would be " well in that case, may I have a trained phlebotomist to do it since you clearly do not have the confidence to do it properly yourself?"


I totally agree with you on this, but even so, would still not agree to it.

Like you said there are some good medics and doctors out there who will take the time to try not to hurt you if it is humanly possible, but it only takes one bad experience to put you on edge for the next time.

I had the blood gasses taken from the wrist in Hospital following pneumonia. But was warned that it would be very painful. It was and I have since refused it I'm afraid. The problem is, when one is already feeling ill the last thing we need is to go through something like this. We do have the right to refuse treatment and as long as we have a good reason for it, I think it should be a personal decision after listening to the Doctors and Nurses. I use an oximeter at home and would be happy to do the same in a Hospital setting. If that makes me a whimp, so be it but we all feel pain in a different way and I would not go through that again.

Your definitely not a wimp it really is painful and i've had it done many many times, the only reason i've agreed to grit my teeth and bare it is that it gets me out of hospital much quicker (touching wood now as i've not been in for 2 years) but if you really cant stand it then yes Vivienne you can refuse it, my gripe was with the way the doctor treated me when he couldn't get in the right place (not my fault) and his attitude was really bad for a doctor, I am the sort of person who sticks up for themselves but when you are really ill and struggling for breath the last thing you want to do is to fight verbally with someone.

I had this done in A & E when I was admitted with chest infection.A sister warned me that it would hurt and that she would be as quick as possible....it was not too bad...however on the ward a junior doc had numerous goes making my wrists very bruised.Shudder if I need to have it again...would you believe they show how to do it on Utube !!!

In the right hands with the right attitude you are right it isent so bad , bet you could of slapped that young doctor though its as though they have all emotion knocked taken out them and what should be a vocation becomes a job.

I am due to have mine checked at home on Wed. it truly isn't the pain from the needle that is sending me into constant anxiety but I have to be without oxygen for 30 mins before the blood is taken. I am 24/7 3 ltr and just cant cope with the thought of this I managed 10min before I was in pieces.

I had it done when I was twelve they attempted around 6 times in my right wrist 5 in my groin and 2 in my left wrist it was horrible

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