Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A survey of transcutaneous blood gas monitoring among European neonatal intensive care units

Mario Rüdiger12*, Kerstin Töpfer1, Hannes Hammer1, Gerd Schmalisch1 and Roland R Wauer1

Author Affiliations

1 Clinic of Neonatology; Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Charité-Mitte; 10098 Berlin; Germany

2 Department for Neonatology, Medical University Innsbruck, Department for Neonatology, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

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BMC Pediatrics 2005, 5:30  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-5-30

Published: 10 August 2005



PCO2 and PO2 are important monitoring parameters in neonatal intensive care units (NICU). Compared to conventional blood gas measurements that cause significant blood loss in preterms, transcutaneous (tc) measurements allow continuous, non-invasive monitoring of blood gas levels. The aim of the study was to survey the usage and opinions among German speaking NICUs concerning tc blood gas monitoring.


A questionnaire was developed and sent to 56 head nurses of different NICUs in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.


A completely answered questionnaire was obtained from 41 NICUs. In two of these units tc measurements are not performed. In most NICUs (77%), both PtcO2 and PtcCO2 are measured simultaneously. Most units change the sensors every 3 hours; however, the recommended temperature of 44°C is used in only 15% of units. In only 8% of units are arterial blood gases obtained to validate tc values. Large variations were found concerning the targeted level of oxygen saturation [median upper limit: 95% (range 80–100%); median lower limit: 86% (range 75–93%)] and PO2 [median upper limit: 70 mmHg (range 45–90 mmHg); median lower limit: 44 mmHg (range 30–60 mmHg)].


Our survey shows that the use of tc monitors remains widespread among German speaking NICUs, despite earlier data suggesting that their use had been abandoned in many NICUs worldwide. In addition, we suggest that the current method of monitoring oxygenation may not prevent hyperoxemia in preterm infants.