What’s A Pulse Oximeter?

pulse oximeter sleepyfish

pulse oximeter sleepyfish

Pulse oximeter is a device used to measure the oxygen level (oxygen saturation) of the blood. It is an easy, painless measure of how well oxygen is being sent to parts of your body furthest from your heart, such as the arms and legs.

If you work in healthcare you are very likely to have come across pulse oximeters. You can find them in areas such as operating rooms, recovery, critical care, wards, and ambulances. Nowadays there are many portable pulse oximeters for home use as well.

Pulse oximeter is in common use because it is:

  • non invasive
  • cheap to buy and use
  • can be very compact
  • detects hypoxaemia earlier than you using your eyes to see cyanosis.

Pulse oximetry may be used to see if there is enough oxygen in the blood. This information is needed in many kinds of situations.

Why do I need pulse oximetry?

  • During or after surgery or procedures that use sedation
  • To see how well lung medicines are working
  • To check a person’s ability to handle increased activity levels
  • To see if a ventilator is needed to help with breathing, or to see how well it’s working
  • To check a person has moments when breathing stops during sleep (sleep apnea)

The pulse oximeter is also used to check the health of a person with any condition that affects blood oxygen levels, such as heart attack, heart failure, COPD, anemia, lung cancer, asthma, and pneumonia.

Pulse Oximetry for Sleep Apnea

If you have sleep apnea, a portable pulse oximeter can be very useful in monitoring your oxygen saturation during sleep.

Oxygen saturation over 94% is considered normal. Anything bellow 92% oxygen in your blood is a sign that you have breathing problems during sleep (sleep apnea, severe snoring, COPD, asthma, etc).

Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to advise pulse oximetry. The video below explains well the details of how pulse oximeters work.




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