Cyanosis is the appearance of a blue or purple coloration of the skin or mucous membranes due to the tissues near the skin surface having low oxygen saturation. Based on Lundsgaard and Van Slyke’s work, Lundsgaard C, Van Slyke DD. Cyanosis. Medicine. 2(1): is classically described as occurring if 5.0 g/dL of deoxyhemoglobin or greater is present. What is commonly forgotten, however, is that this was based on an “estimate” of capillary saturation based on a mean of arterial versus peripheral venous blood gas measurements. Since estimation of hypoxia is usually now based either on arterial blood gas measurement, or pulse oximetry, this is probably an overestimate, with evidence that levels of 2.0 g/dL of deoxyhemoglobin may reliably produce cyanosis. Since, however, the presence of cyanosis is dependent upon there being an absolute quantity of deoxyhemoglobin, the bluish color is more readily apparent in those with high hemoglobin counts than it is with those with anemia. Also the bluer color is more difficult to detect on deeply pigmented skin. When signs of cyanosis first appear, such as on the lips or fingers, intervention should be made within 3–5 minutes because a severe hypoxia or severe circulatory failure may have induced the cyanosis. The name cyanosis, literally means “the blue disease” or “the blue condition.” It is derived from the color cyan, which comes from kyanos, the Greek word for blue.
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