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Carbon Dioxide (Bicarbonate)

Risks

There is very little risk of complications from having blood drawn from a vein.

  • You may develop a small bruise at the puncture site. You can reduce the risk of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes after the needle is withdrawn.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become inflamed after the blood sample is taken. This condition is called phlebitis and is usually treated with a warm compress applied several times daily.
  • Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can also make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your health professional before your blood is drawn.

Results

A carbon dioxide (bicarbonate) test measures the level of bicarbonate in the blood.

The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.

Results are usually available in 1 to 2 days.

Carbon dioxide (bicarbonate)1
Normal:

23–30 mEq/L (23–30 mmol/L)

High values

High carbon dioxide (bicarbonate) levels may be caused by:

Low values

Low carbon dioxide (bicarbonate) levels may be caused by:

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include the following:

  • You drink liquids that are very acidic, such as orange juice or some types of carbonated beverages, shortly before having the test.
  • You are taking some medicines, such as diuretics, some antibiotics, glaucoma medicine, and corticosteroids.
  • The health professional leaves on the elastic band that stops blood flow for an extended amount of time before the blood sample is collected.

What To Think About

  • The carbon dioxide (bicarbonate) test also can be done on a blood sample taken from an artery for an arterial blood gas (ABG) test. For more information, see the topic Arterial Blood Gases.

Citations

  1. Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Other Works Consulted

  • Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 30, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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