BACKGROUND--Although plastic arterial sampling syringes are now commonly used, the effects of sample storage time and temperature on blood gas tensions are poorly described for samples with a high oxygen partial pressure (PaO2) taken with these high density polypropylene syringes. METHODS--Two ml samples of tonometered whole blood (PaO2 86.7 kPa, PaCO2 4.27 kPa) were placed in glass syringes and in three brands of plastic blood gas syringes. The syringes were placed either at room temperature or in iced water and blood gas analysis was performed at baseline and after 5, 10, 20, 40, 60, 90, and 120 minutes. RESULTS--In the first 10 minutes measured PaO2 in plastic syringes at room temperature fell by an average of 1.21 kPa/min; placing the sample on ice reduced the rate of PaO2 decline to 0.19 kPa/min. The rate of fall of PaO2 in glass at room temperature was 0.49 kPa/min. The changes in PaCO2 were less dramatic and at room temperature averaged increases of 0.47 kPa for plastic syringes and 0.71 kPa for glass syringes over the entire two hour period. These changes in gas tension for plastic syringes would lead to an overestimation of pulmonary shunt measured by the 100% oxygen technique of 0.6% for each minute left at room temperature before analysis. CONCLUSIONS--Glass syringes are superior to plastic syringes in preserving samples with a high PaO2, and prompt and adequate cooling of such samples is essential for accurate blood gas analysis.
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