What is an oximeter?
An oximeter is a portable medical device that measures the oxygen levels in the blood when it is clipped on a finger or toe. This non-invasive medical tool checks how efficiently the blood from the heart and lungs is being sent to the body’s various organs.
What does an oximeter measure?
An oximeter measures two things:
- Oxygen Saturation (SpO2): The measurement indicates that what percentage of oxygen is saturated. To keep it simple, the oxygen amount that is being carried by the red blood cells.
- Rate: rate is nothing but the heart rate that indicates the number of times a heart beats per minute.
How does an oximeter work?
An oximeter works on the principle of spectrophotometry, which deals with visible light. When the oximeter is placed on the index finger or toe of the person, it beams multiple rays of light that pass through the blood in that particular part of the body.
The light sensors in the oximeter measure the number of blood cells that carry oxygen. It is observed that the oxygenated blood is darker than the deoxygenated blood. Therefore, the sensitive light sensors in the oximeter detect the variations of light absorption patterns between the oxygen-carrying blood and translate them into reading.
Why does one need an oximeter?
An oximeter is usually used to check how efficiently one’s heart pumps oxygen through the body. Some patients are advised to regularly use oximeters and monitor their oxygen saturation levels, which could be affected by existing respiratory or cardiac issues. In such cases, one should keep an oximeter handy to spot-check the oxygen saturation levels whenever necessary.
Some of the medical problems that can affect oxygen saturation levels include:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Lung cancer
- Heart Attack
- Congenital heart defects (congenital disabilities)
What are the uses of an oximeter?
Apart from determining oxygen saturation levels and rate, oximeters have many other uses, mainly evaluating the effectiveness of specific treatments. Here are some of the expected benefits of oximeter:
- To evaluate breathing difficulties
- To monitor oxygen levels which is on the ventilator
- To access oxygen levels during or after the surgery
- To assess the effectiveness of oxygen therapy, in case if the patient is new to the treatment
- To determine one’s ability to tolerate increase physical activity
- To monitor the breathing patterns of a person during a sleep study, in cases of sleep apnea
How to use an oximeter?
The oximeter is used for the ongoing monitoring of hospitalized patients and to take a single reading at the time of consultation. The steps involved during the procedure of utilizing an oximeter are as follows:
- At first, the oximeter is clipped on the index finger or toe. There is no pricking involved, as it is a non-invasive test. But the person may feel slight pain due to clipping the device.
- Turn on the device, and within a few seconds, the device will collect accurate information and show readings of oxygen saturation levels and rate.
- Once the reading is noted, the device can be removed from the index finger and automatically turn off.
- In some cases, the device is left on for a specific time in which ongoing monitoring of oxygen saturation levels is required.
Understanding the readings of oximeter:
The oximeters usually show the values of oxygen saturation levels as a percentage, represented by SpO2. Simultaneously, the rate is displayed as a number ranging between 60 and 100, which indicates a normal heartbeat.
A SpO2 reading range between 95% to 100% is considered normal. If anything is less than 95% indicates underlying medical conditions that need to be evaluated immediately. The lower oxygen saturation levels might display the following health issues which require medical attention at the earliest:
- Breathing difficulties
- Lung infection
- Blocked airways
- Poor blood circulation
Tips to get accurate results on oximeter:
In general, the readings on the oximeters are accurate. But, some factors can affect the functioning of the device and result in errors or inappropriate tasks. Here are the few tips that you should consider while using an oximeter for accurate results:
- Make sure to place the finger properly into the device
- Sit still while taking the readings
- Position the probe correctly
- Remove any nail polish, tattoos, or henna dye
- Warm up your fingers before starting with the test
What are the risks of using an oximeter?
There are no real risks involved with using an oximeter, and it is considered safe. In some cases, the probe is fixed for continuous monitoring using an adhesive, which can irritate your skin. Finally, an oximeter is a simple, non-invasive, and reliable medical device that gives accurate oxygen saturation levels with no risks.
- Oximetry – https://www.healthline.com/health/pulse-oximetry
- Using the oximeter –https://www.who.int/patientsafety/safesurgery/pulse_oximetry/who_ps_pulse_oxymetry_tutorial2_advanced_en.pdf
- How a small device called an oximeter measures oxygen levels – https://www.insider.com/what-is-a-pulse-oximeter
- Oximetry – https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/pulse-oximetry