Thursday, October 10, 2013

How to Choose a Pulse Oximeter

A pulse oximeter is a device that is designed for measuring the oxygen levels in a patient's blood.  The amount of oxygen in the body is critical to many different dimensions of health that has led to a variety of technological advantages in order to come up with the most efficient and accurate ways of testing a patient's oxygen saturation levels. The latest oximeter products that have a widespread use are ones that are non-invasive and suitable for individuals of all ages.

nonin pulse oximeter

How does it work?

The technology is relatively simple. The oximeter uses a sensor that is placed over a thin part of the patient's body, typically the fingertip or earlobe to measure the oxygen levels.  It takes measurements using a photo detector that is reading two wavelengths that pass through the patient's body. The absorption rate of the light is then measured. The readings focus on the arterial blood, measuring the de-oxygenated and oxygenated hemoglobin.

Who can use it?

A Pulse Oximeter is commonly used in two scenarios: in medical/hospital and at home. At home, a person with asthma, respiratory problems, sleep apnea or anyone who is concerned with their blood oxygen level can use it. They are also used by sports & recreation enthusiasts such as mountain climbers, pilots, scuba divers, and athletes.

In the medical and hospital area, it is used to monitor patients before, during and after a procedure or surgery. It is also beneficial when monitoring patients who are in critical conditions as well. They are largely found in a hospital setting in wards such as the emergency room, operating room and the intensive care unit. Doctors, dentists, EMTs and firefighters also use this device to monitor the oxygen levels in their patient. The devices are highly versatile, allowing them to be used on patients of any age, although, devices designed for infants are typically outfitted to be placed over the foot or toe.

What are the different types of oximeters?

Some of the popular types of oximeters that you could choose from are:

What should I look for?

Many oximeter devices have different features that you could choose from. We suggest you pick the one that satisfied your basic requirements. Here are some features that we recommend you look at:
  • High level of accuracy
  • Simple Display screen that are easy to read
  • Single-touch operation
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Efficient power usage. E.g.  30 hours on a single battery
  • Neck/wrist cords and carrying case along with good warranties
  • Alarms to indicate high/low oxygen levels or pulse rates.

What are the benefits?

The in-home oximeter devices are designed to be extremely accurate and are being put to use for growing numbers of patients in need of careful monitoring outside of a hospital setting. People using these devices in the home are finding that they have invaluable applications when it comes to monitoring sleep apnea, arterial blood gas, or an integrated pulmonary index. The only real limitations is associated with the fact that it is measuring hemoglobin's saturation of oxygen rather than the complete ventilation status of the respiratory system itself. This concern causes some people who are suffering from respiratory illnesses to rely on other devices in addition to this one when receiving treatments in the home.

Few things to consider

There are three primary situations in which these devices have been shown to give false high or low readings consistently. These occur due to the fact that hemoglobin in the body is binding to elements other than oxygen. In the event of carbon monoxide poisoning, hypoxia will cause the readings to be inaccurate. Cyanide poisoning causes problems that create artificially high readings due to changes in arterial blood. Lastly, methemoglobinemia causes ratings that consistently stay in the middle 80's range.

A bonus feature in oximeters

The latest Pulse Oximeters on the market also have the ability to monitor heart rates as well as oxygen saturation levels in the body. The oxygen level measurements are indirect recordings while the heart beat is based directly on the pulse in the finger. The best models feature easy to understand, digital readouts for patients.