Knowledge of how oxygen is dissolved in the blood, transmitted through the bloodstream, and factors that affect oxygen delivery to body cells, is essential to the nursing management of the critically ill patient whose inherent physiologic mechanisms have been compromised by life-threatening illness. This article begins with a simplified review of respiration, progresses through a discussion of oxygen tension in the blood and hemoglobin transport of oxygen, and ends with a discussion of factors that affect the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve.

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