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Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 1999 Dec;26(4):695-709.

Umbilical cord blood gas analysis.

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St. Luke's Hospital of Kansas City, Missouri, USA.


Umbilical cord blood gas and pH values should always be obtained in the high-risk delivery and whenever newborn depression occurs. This practice is important because umbilical cord blood gas analysis may assist with clinical management and excludes the diagnosis of birth asphyxia in approximately 80% of depressed newborns at term. The most useful umbilical cord blood parameter is arterial pH. Sampling umbilical venous blood alone is not recommended because arterial blood is more representative of the fetal metabolic condition and because arterial acidemia may occur with a normal venous pH. A complete blood gas analysis may provide important information regarding the type and cause of acidemia and sampling the artery and vein may provide a more clear assessment. The sampling technique is simple and easily mastered by any treatment person in the delivery room. Preheparinized syringes ensure a consistent dose and amount of heparin. Depending on how normality is defined and on the population studied, normal ranges for umbilical cord blood gas values vary (see Table 1). In general, the lower range for normal arterial pH extends to at least 7.10 and that for venous pH to at least 7.20. Many different factors during pregnancy, labor, and delivery can affect cord blood gases. Umbilical blood sampling for acid-base status at all deliveries cannot be universally recommended because many facilities do not have the capabilities to support such a practice and in doing so may impose an excessive financial burden. Considering the costs, the accumulated published data, and the nonspecificity of electronic fetal monitoring in the evaluation of fetal oxygenation, it may be more rational to implement universal cord blood gas analysis. Care providers and institutions with the logistical capabilities in place should consider the cost efficacy of routine cord blood gas analysis because it is the gold standard assessment of uteroplacental function and fetal oxygenation/acid-base status at birth.

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