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Metabolic and respiratory acidosis: Clinical
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In metabolic acidosis, the blood pH is below 7.35, and it’s due to a bicarbonate or HCO3 concentration in the blood of less than 22 mEq/L.
In addition, associated symptoms are related to the underlying cause, for example, in diabetic ketoacidosis there’s nausea and vomiting.
First thing’s first. Serum chemistries are obtained including serum bicarbonate or HCO3, potassium, sodium and chloride in order to see if there’s any electrolyte imbalance, and BUN and Creatinine are checked to assess renal function.
The diagnosis is usually based on an ABG, and in addition to a pH below 7.35, and HCO3 levels below 22 mEq/L, if there’s respiratory compensation, the pCO2 levels will be under 35 mm Hg.
Generally, for every 1 mEq/L reduction in HCO3 levels, there’s a 1.2 mm Hg fall in pCO2.
Additionally, we can verify if the respiratory compensation is appropriate by using Winter’s formula and comparing the calculated value with the measured pCO2 from the ABG.
It goes like this. Arterial pCO2 equals 1.5 times serum HCO3 plus 8 plus or minus 2. So if our HCO3 is 15, then the calculated arterial pCO2 is: 1.5 times 15 plus 8 plus or minus 2. So 1.5 times 15 is 22.5, and 22.5 plus 8 is 30.5, so it’s 30.5 plus or minus 2, so the range is 28.5 to 32.5.
Generally, when pH levels are below 7.1, treatment is urgent and IV sodium bicarbonate or Tromethamine or THAM is given.
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