CO blood test, CO blood gas, arterial blood gas
This test measures the level of carbon monoxide (CO) in your blood.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas made by combustion. Breathing in CO can be fatal because it doesn't allow oxygen to get to your heart and other organs.
This test looks for carboxyhemoglobin. This substance is made in your blood when hemoglobin combines with carbon monoxide instead of oxygen.
Most deaths from CO result from smoke inhalation. Other sources include heaters that don’t work as they should, kitchen stoves and tools that are not vented correctly, camping stoves, charcoal grills, water heaters, and cars with their engines running in an enclosed space like a garage. All of these can cause CO to spread throughout a building.
You may need this test if your health care provider thinks you have CO poisoning. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
"Cherry red" skin and lips
Severe poisoning can cause nerve system symptoms such as:
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be hard to recognize in very young children. For example, a child may merely appear fussy and not want to eat.
You may also have this test if you have been in contact with CO. This is especially true if you inhaled smoke during a fire. You may also have this test if you've been near a car that had its engine running in an enclosed space for a long time.
Your health care provider may also order these tests:
Pregnancy test in women. This is because CO exposure puts the fetus at high risk for problems.
Your provider may also order an MRI scan if you also have symptoms of nervous system problems.
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.
Results are given as a percentage or as a decimal. These are the normal ranges for CO levels in the blood:
Adults: less than 2.3%, or 0.023
Adult smokers: 2.1% to 4.2%, or 0.021 to 0.042
Adult heavy smokers (more than 2 packs a day): 8% to 9%
Hemolytic anemia: Up to 4%
Newborn: greater than 12%
If your levels are higher, you may have CO intoxication or poisoning.
The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.
Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.
Other factors aren't likely to affect your results.
You don't need to prepare for this test. But be sure your health care provider knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.