Carbon Monoxide, Blood

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CPT Code:


Test Type: 7 mL Whole Blood


Use: Determine the extent of carbon monoxide poisoning, and toxicity; check on the effect of smoking on the patient; work up headache, irritability, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, dyspnea, collapse, coma, convulsions; work up persons exposed to fires and smoke inhalation

Limitations: Carbon monoxide levels are of limited value in testing for smoking, since it is cleared rapidly. The half-life of carboxyhemoglobin in individuals with normal cardiopulmonary function is one to two hours. Urinary cotinine, if available, is preferable as a test for tobacco use. Arterial blood gases may be of limited value in treatment decisions for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Methodology: Co-oximetry

Collection Details:

Patient Preparation:

A morning specimen is not as good as one that is drawn in the late afternoon or evening, especially if the patient is an outpatient who may have occupational exposure (ie, policemen, firemen on day shifts, mechanics). CO tends to be cleared from the blood in hours. Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning involves removal of the individual from the contaminated area and the administration of oxygen. The half-life of carboxyhemoglobin is five to six hours when the patient breathes room air; it is reduced to 1 to 11/2 hours when the patient breathes 100% oxygen. In severe cases, hyperbaric oxygen treatment at two to three atmospheres is recommended, if available. In the latter instance, the carboxyhemoglobin half-life is reduced to approximately 25 minutes. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may reduce the incidence of neurological manifestations after exposure. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been recommended when the carboxyhemoglobin concentration exceeds 25%. Some have cautioned against basing decisions to institute hyperbaric oxygenation solely on the carboxyhemoglobin concentration owing to the inconsistent correlation between such a measurement and clinical severity.


Collection Instructions:

Specimen: Whole blood

Volume: 7 mL

Minimum Volume: 0.6 mL

Container: Lavender-top (EDTA) tube or green-top (heparin) tube; submit the original full, unopened tube.

Collection: Sampling time is end of shift for industrial exposure monitoring. Analytes with timing “end of shift” (meaning the last two hours of exposure) are eliminated rapidly with a half-life less than five hours. Such compounds do not accumulate in the body and, therefore, their timing is critical only in relation to the exposure period.