What is a pulse oximeter?
Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive and painless test that determines the amount of oxygen saturation or the level of oxygen in your blood. It can easily detect even minor differences in the efficacy of the transfer of oxygen to the extremities, including legs and arms, from the heart. The pulse oximeter is a thin, clip-like instrument that sticks to a part of the body, like a toe or an earlobe.
It is usually placed on a finger and is also used in intensive care units such as emergency rooms or hospitals. It can also be used by certain physicians, such as pulmonologists. This non-invasive tool delivers two wavelengths of light painlessly to your fingertip to evaluate the pulsation rate and the amount of oxygen in your system.
After the evaluation is done, it will show the percentage of oxygen in your blood emanating from your heart—as well as your current pulse rate.
A pulse oximeter reading shows how much of the blood, known as the SpO2, is saturated. The error window of this test is 2%. This means that the reading will be 2% higher or less than the real levels of oxygen in the blood. This test can be slightly less precise, but since it gives quick results, the doctors are therefore relying on it.
Things such as dark polished nails or cold limbs might cause the pulse or to readings to be less accurate. If your reading seems abnormally small, your doctor may ask you to remove your nail polish. Since this test is non-invasive, one can perform it on themselves. A pulse oximeter is usually available in all the medical stores. However, one must talk to their doctor before using it.
Pulse oximeter uses
The objective of pulse oximetry is to analyse how well your body pumps oxygen. It can be used to track the health of an individual with any disease, especially when they are hospitalized, which can impact blood oxygen levels.
There are the following:
- Heart attack
- Congenital heart defects
- Lung cancer
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
There could be a number of reasons for which a pulse oximeter is used:
- To assess someone’s ability to tolerate increased physical activity
- To determine the effectiveness of the supplemental oxygen therapy is, usually done when treatment is new
- To assess how well the new medication is working for the lungs.
- To check whether someone’s heartbeats or breathing if it stopped in sleep— like in of sleep apnea
- To evaluate if aid in breathing is required
- To keep a check on the oxygen levels during or after operational procedures that require sedation
- To evaluate the usefulness of ventilator
A small device clamp-like device is put on a finger, or the earlobe, or the toe during a pulse oximetry reading. Small light beams pass the blood in the finger to test oxygen levels. This is achieved with the measurement of light shifts in the blood which is oxygenated or deoxygenated. This process is painless. The pulse oximeter will tell you your heart rate and oxygen saturation levels.
In both hospital and intensive care settings, the pulse oximeter can be used. In certain cases, a pulse oximeter might be recommended for home use by your doctor.
The procedure for using a pulse oximeter is:
- A clip-like device is mounted on your finger, earlobe or toe. You might be able to feel little pressure and discomfort but you will feel no pain on pinching. Certain cases may involve placing a small sample with a sticky adhesive on your finger or forehead. The doctor may ask you to remove your nail polish if you have it on.
- You have to keep the probe on as long as the oxygen saturation and your pulse is not monitored. This occurs during the workout and the healing time when physical activity is tracked. The test is conducted while you’re under the supervision and will be removed before you wake up. Sometimes only a single reading is taken with the device. The clip removed on the completion of the test.
Pulse oximeter reading
Usually, pulse oximetry produces a fairly precise test. This is particularly true in most medical offices or hospitals where high-quality equipment is used. the difference, however, has a gap of around 2%. For example, if your reading was 82%, your true oxygen levels might be between 80 and 84%. The consistency of the waveform and the individual’s evaluation must be taken into account. The precision can be influenced by factors such as movement, temperature and nail polish.
Usually, more than 89% of our blood is oxygenated blood. This oxygenation is of vital importance as it plays a significant role in keeping our cell and body safe and healthy. Although oxygen saturation is not thought to cause harm, temporarily, frequent or consistent cases of lower oxygen saturation may not be detrimental.
For most healthy people, oxygen saturation levels of 95% are considered natural. A 92% level suggests possible hypoxemia or oxygen deficiency in tissues in the body.
The pulse oximeters typically display SpO2 as a percentage of blood oxygen saturation. The pulse rate is seen in the range of 60 to 100, suggesting a typical cardiac range. A reading of SpO2 ranging between 95% and 100% is considered natural, while underlying medical conditions are considered to automatically assess anything less than 95%.
The lower levels of oxygen in the blood may indicate the following health conditions that require medical attention at the earliest possible time:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Infection in the lungs
- Blocked respiratory tract
- Poor blood circulation
After the completion of the readings, the laboratory guy is provided with the results. Depending on your results, it will be decided whether further any tests are to be performed or not. For instance, an evaluation that is still on the low side may mean that you need more oxygen if you are determining how effective your oxygen supplementation is.
The use of a pulse oximeter does not present specific risks and is considered healthy. In certain cases, the sample is fixed with an adhesive to track the skin continuously. a pulse oximeter is a simple non-invasive, reliable medicinal appliance that provides precise, risk-free measurements of blood oxygen levels.