The blood-conserving technology of continuous intra-arterial blood gas monitoring has recently been introduced into the field of critical care. This type of monitoring is a real-time method for concomitantly assessing oxygenation, ventilation, and acid-base status in pediatric and adult populations through an indwelling (in vivo) sensor residing in a peripheral artery. This article examines the technology underpinning in vivo blood gas monitoring and reviews research documenting clinical performance, as well as benefits and clinical applications of three-analyte systems in critically ill patients. A majority of research has revealed clinically acceptable accuracy and reliability of in vivo blood gas sensors in critically ill adults subjected to a variety of adverse, but common, physiological conditions. Although most clinical research in critically ill adults has revealed good clinical performance of in vivo blood gas sensors, reports of aberrant blood gas values and sensor problems remain; no reports have been published to date evaluating continuous intra-arterial blood gas monitoring in children or infants. Many benefits of this technology have been postulated, and research examining its effect on patient and cost outcomes in critically ill populations is pending. Clinicians in critical care must keep abreast of this emerging technology, because it holds significant potential for improving the quality of care and outcomes of critically ill patients.

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