Transcutaneous blood gas (TCBG) analysis is a noninvasive alternative method of estimation of blood gas tensions. The objective of the study reported here was to validate this method against standard blood gas (STBG) analysis in adult and juvenile Sprague-Dawley rats. We sought to establish the optimal TCBG probe site and temperature, to establish probe temperatures that would not cause thermal burns, to evaluate correlations between blood gas values (PaCO2 and PaO2) determined by use of TCBG and STBG, and to evaluate the sensitivity of the TCBG unit to changes in arterial blood gas partial pressures. Our results indicated that: in general, the xyphoid area was the optimal site for probe placement, with 44.5 degrees C being the optimal probe temperature for the highest correlation, but thermal burns may be a problem; probe temperatures of 42.5 degrees C (adults) and 42.0 degrees C (juveniles) do not cause thermal burns when left in place for three hours; probe temperatures of 44 degrees C (adults) and 42 degrees C (juveniles) resulted in moderate correlation between PaCO2 and PtcCO2; and the TCBG unit adequately responded to changes in arterial blood gas partial pressures. Neither PtcCO2 or PtcO2 reflect actual values of PaCO2 or PaO2, respectively. We concluded that TCBG analysis may be used as an indicator of change in PaCO2 with sufficient animal numbers under tightly controlled conditions, but not as an indicator of change in PaO2 in adult and juvenile rats.
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