Measurement of mixed venous oxygen saturation helps determine whether cardiac output and oxygen delivery are sufficient for metabolic needs. As recommended by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses guideline, blood samples for determining mixed venous oxygen saturation are obtained by slowly, in 1 to 2 minutes, withdrawing 1.5 mL of blood from the distal port of the pulmonary artery catheter. In theory, the negative force of rapid withdrawal could pull oxygenated blood from the pulmonary capillary bed, causing falsely elevated saturation values.


To determine if the speed of withdrawal affects oxygen content in blood samples used to measure mixed venous oxygen saturation.


The sample consisted of heart failure patients with pulmonary artery catheters admitted to a cardiac intensive care unit. A prospective, randomized, 2 × 2 crossover design was used to compare mixed venous oxygen saturation in blood samples obtained quickly or slowly. A total of 50 sets of saturation values were analyzed. Each set included 1 blood sample obtained slowly, in 1 to 2 minutes, and 1 obtained rapidly, in 5 seconds.


The mean difference in saturation values between the fast and the slow groups was −0.3 (CI, −1.5 to 0.8; P = .55), indicating that no meaningful systematic bias is attributable to fast withdrawal of blood.


Rapid blood sampling does not falsely elevate measurements of mixed venous oxygen saturation.

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