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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Respiratory Acidosis Study Guide

Respiratory Acidosis, ABGs, Nurse, Student Nurse, NCLEX, Acid-Base Imbalance, RN, COPD

Respiratory Acidosis

Respiratory Acidosis occurs when the patient's pH is decreased (below 7.35) and their PaCO2 is increased (above 45). Hypoventilation is the most common cause of the acid-base imbalance. It is also commonly caused by the overuse of sedatives. It can be acute and chronic. Chronic sufferers are those with COPD. This post will help you identify the cause, recognize the symptoms, and find the best treatment for your patient with Respiratory Acidosis.

This is the fourth post in a five post series. You might want to read the very first post which is an overview of Arterial Blood Gases: The Ultimate Beginners Guide

ABGs, Arterial Blood Gases, nurse, lab draws, respiratory alkalosis, respiratory acidosis, metabolic alkalosis, metabolic acidosis, pH, Acid-Base Imbalances

ROME: Respiratory Opposite, Metabolic Equal

I wished I had learned that about a year ago, but hey, better late than never!


  • Acute Pulmonary Edema
  • Aspiration
  • Atelectasis
  • Pnemothorax
  • Overdose of Sedatives
  • Emphysema- Chronic
  • Cystic Fibrosis- Chronic


  • Weakness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Convulsions
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Ventricular Fibrillation - May be the first sign in an anesthetized patient. **OR Nurses**
V Fib is most likely to occur in patients with chronic respiratory diseases. It can happen as quickly as 15 minutes after intubation. So OR nurses be on the lookout! It's from hyperkalemia. pH can drop down to 7 in a matter of minutes. This is a BIG deal.


Treatment is based around getting the patient to breathe better. We need to improve ventilation. Bronchodilators can be used if there is a bronchial spasm. Perhaps this was triggered from a pneumonia, so we'll administer an antibiotic. Supplement with oxygen, if indicated. Increase fluids so that secretions can thin. The patient may be placed on a ventilator. Just like everything else, treatment is determined by the cause of the problem.

That's respiratory acidosis in a nut shell.

You might be interested in checking out:

ABGs: The Ultimate Beginners Guide

I didn't go into too many details on this post, so if you'd like more information I have an ebook on for $3.99 that explains everything so much better. I also work through practice problems with you- step by step. I know how confusing this can be. It took me four different teachers, and four different classes until I FINALLY learned acid-base imbalances the correct way. So check it out! Easy Guide to Interpret Acid-Base Imbalances. It's cheaper than your lunch, and you don't even need to have a kindle to read it!! Thanks!!

What are some things stressing you out this week? Is there anything that you need help understanding?? Sound off below in the comments and I'll do my best to help you out!!




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