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Portable Oxygen Concentrator Resource Center

Pulse Oximeters, Vital for Effective Disease Management

Posted by Lisa Burkhart on Sep 7, 2017 10:08:34 AM
Lisa Burkhart


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What is Pulse Oximetry?

Pulse oximetry is a painless and non-invasive method for measuring oxygen saturation in the blood. A small probe is clipped on the finger tip or ear lobe.  Sometimes it is just to receive a singular reading or sometimes during a hospital stay it is used for continuous monitoring.

What is Oxygen Saturation?

We breathe in air through our respiratory system where the lungs filter out nitrogen and other gasses and send the useful oxygen molecules throughout the body via hemoglobin traveling through our blood vessels. Oxygen saturation is the measurement of how much oxygen is being transported through our blood stream at any given time.

Who can Benefit from the use of a Pulse Oximeter?

  • Heart attack sufferers
  • COPD patients
  • Those with lung cancer
  • Anyone with asthma
  • People in various kinds of heart failure
  • Patients who have contracted pneumonia

How does Pulse Oximetry Work?

The pulse oximeter makes use of light saturation to measure oxygen saturation and also heart rate. The top of the probe emits a light source that is received by a sensor in the bottom of the probe as light passes through your finger. Hemoglobin absorbs light so the less light the sensor sees, the more your oxygen saturation. This saturation is measured in percentages, as in the percentage of blood passing through your vessels contains oxygen molecules traveling via hemoglobin. 

What is a Normal Reading?

pulse oximeter reading.jpgThis is a subject that your doctor will discuss at length with you depending upon your condition. Oxygen saturation readings must always be above 90, otherwise you should seek medical attention immediately. Normal, healthy readings are generally above 95%.

Why use a Pulse Oximeter?

For those battling COPD or certain heart conditions the use of pulse oximetry provides vital information that you require to take control of your treatment. It is a simple and inexpensive device that measures the oxygen level in your blood as well as your heart rate. Taking frequent readings throughout the day and at specific times such as while exercising, when first waking, etc, it can tell your doctor more about your respiratory or heart condition so that they can more effectively treat your disease including assessing if you need medical oxygen or customize pulmonary rehab accordingly. Your pulmonologist or primary physician can find out:

  • How well your medication is working
  • Measure your ability to handle certain activities
  • Gauge the effectiveness of your oxygen concentrator
  • To find out if the patient stops breathing at any point during the night and may have sleep apnea.

Advances in Pulse Oximetry

While pulse oximeters have been on the market for decades, recent technological phone pulse ox.pngadvances in the life saving device have now made use of pocket pulse oximeters more accessible than ever. The latest pulse oximeters, often referred to as smart pulse oximeters, can now be used in conjunction with smartphones and tablets. The smart pulse oximeters can be plugged into Android and iOS devices, so no matter which smartphone or tablet you use, your pulse oximeter will be ready to connect. The new oximeters were designed with maximum efficiency and reliability in mind, allowing users to access readings 24/7.

Benefits of Smart Pulse Oximeters

One of the biggest benefits to smart pulse oximeters is that the devices can be easily read on whatever device you prefer. The corresponding app will display via phone or tablet:

  • all blood oxygen saturation levels
  • pulse rates
  • respiration
  • perfusion index

Choose whichever device you prefer, plug in and the smart pulse oximeter does all of the work for you.

Another feature that separates smart pulse oximeters from conventional oximeters is that there are no batteries required to power these devices. Because the pulse oximeter is plugged into the user’s smartphone there is no need for batteries, creating a more reliable device. You never have to worry about whether or not the device has power and ultimately save money without the need to replace batteries.

Smart pulse oximeters also allow users to store and track readings over time. The device can be used to track monitoring so that you can determine how well any changes made have been beneficial to your overall health. Both short and long term monitoring are available on smart pulse oximeters, too. Whether you’re in need of a quick read or a long term recording, the smart oximeter has you covered.

Common Pitfalls with Pulse Oximeters

Pulse oximeters are extremely easy to use but if your reading is way off from what you normally get, some of these factors may be to blame:

  • Light measurement must be unhindered so nail polish or press on nails may affect the reading.
  • Taking a reading in extreme low temperature or when hands are very cold should be avoided as that effects blood circulation.
  • Avoid taking readings in extremely bright light as that may render the reading inaccurate.
  • If you've recently had interveneous dye injected this may affect results.
  • Skin with darker pigmentation my not render accurate readings. The doctor may have to test saturation with a blood draw and compare it to pulse ox readings so establish a new baseline. Try to choose an area where skin is lightest.

Pulse oximetry is a great tool for you and your doctor to use in battling your condition. Instruments are easy to use, inexpensive to buy, and readily available so speak to your doctor today to find out how this technology can help with disease management.

Topics: COPD, pulse oximeter, pulmonary rehabilitation, heart failure

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