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September 8, 1993

The Gastrointestinal TractThe Canary of the Body?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New Hyde Park, NY.

JAMA. 1993;270(10):1247-1248. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510100097040

Despite advances in diagnosis and treatment, the survival of patients admitted to a critical care unit remains disappointingly low. Too many patients die each year as a result of irreversible organ failure, and too many survivors suffer prolonged disabilities. At least some of this organ damage can be attributed to the development of tissue hypoxia and is potentially preventable. This remains one of the major challenges for critical care physicians.

See also p 1203.

The process of oxygen delivery from the environment to the tissue is complex. The first step in the process, oxygenation of the arterial blood, is well understood and can usually be adequately achieved, even in the sickest patient. The development of techniques to improve oxygenation of the arterial blood was clearly dependent on the development of effective ways to monitor the arterial PO2. Repeated measurement of arterial blood gases is routine in critically ill patients, and