Pulse oximetry is a monitoring tool that helps measure how well your lungs are functioning. It does this by measuring the amount of oxygen in your blood. A normal oxygen level is between 95 and 100 percent. Anything below 90 percent is considered low and may require treatment.
Pulse oximetry is widely used in Southport QLD, and is considered to be a safe and reliable way to measure oxygen levels in the blood. Let’s take a closer look at the principles behind it and learn how to best use a pulse oximeter.
What is a Pulse Oximeter?
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t know much about pulse oximetry. But if you or a loved one has ever been in the hospital, there’s a good chance you’ve had a pulse oximeter test.
A pulse oximeter is a small, non-invasive and portable device that helps measure a patient’s oxygen saturation (SpO2) and heart rate. By reading these levels, a doctor can get an accurate picture of the patient’s health and make any necessary adjustments.
How Does a Pulse Oximeter Work?
The pulse oximeter is attached to the finger and uses infrared light to measure the oxygen level in the blood. The device has two sensors that emit and detect the light, which passes through the skin and underlying blood vessels. The amount of light that is absorbed by the blood depends on how much oxygen is present.
Follow these steps to get an accurate reading.
- Insert batteries and turn on the device.
- If you’re taking a measurement using the finger, take off any jewellery or nail paint from that finger.
- The gadget may not show any results if the person’s hands are cold, wearing nail polish or artificial nails. Make sure the hand is warm and at or below heart level.
- Typically, technicians use the index finger. However, a study’s findings indicate that the dominant hand’s third finger had the highest reading. The dominant thumb came in second.
- As long as necessary, keep the gadget on until a reading of pulse rate and oxygen saturation is available.
- Continue to monitor your oxygen saturation and pulse rate for changes.
- If you experience any shortness of breath, chest pain, or other medical symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
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Understanding the Principles of Pulse Oximetry Readings
There are several principles that contribute to the accuracy of pulse oximetry readings. The first is that the sensor must be placed on an area of the body, usually the fleshy part, where there is good circulation. The second is that the sensor must be placed in an area where there is no nail polish or other substance that could interfere with the light absorption. Third, the patient must be resting quietly during the reading, as movement can affect the results. Finally, the pulse oximeter must be calibrated regularly to ensure accuracy.
Where is the Pulse Ox Used?
Pulse oximetry is often used to check for:
- Lung disorders such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pneumonia
- Heart conditions e.g. heart failure and heart attack
- Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea
It can also be used to monitor oxygen levels during exercise or altitude changes and on people who have had recent surgery or who are taking certain medications that can affect their breathing.
Pulse oximeters are used in many different settings, including:
- doctor’s offices
- even at home
Acceptable Blood Oxygen Level
The amount of oxygen carried by the haemoglobin in red blood cells in blood is measured as the blood oxygen level. When tested with a pulse oximeter, people with healthy lungs should have an oxygen level of 80 to 100 mmHg or 95 to 100 percent.
The majority of healthy kids and adults do not need to keep track of their blood oxygen levels. However, people with recurring medical issues may have to regularly take readings. Monitoring blood oxygen levels can help identify whether treatments are effective or whether they need to be modified or corrected.
What Happens if O2 Saturation of the Blood is Low?
A low SpO2 level indicates that your blood is not carrying enough oxygen. If you have a low SpO2 level, it’s imperative to see a doctor find out the cause. Treating the underlying condition can often improve your SpO2 level and help keep it within a normal range. If oxygen saturation continues to be low, it may present the following symptoms.
- breathing difficulty
- a chest ache
- quick heartbeat
Long-term low oxygen saturation will cause cyanosis, whose defining feature is a bluish discolouration of the skin, mucous membranes, and nail beds. Blood oxygen levels are relatively low in these conditions:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
COPD patients typically have lower blood oxygen levels than healthy individuals. This is due to the impaired function of the lungs in COPD patients, which results in less oxygen being able to reach the bloodstream. The average blood oxygen level for COPD patients is around 80%, but it can vary depending on the severity of the condition.
Anaemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells (RBCs) carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. If you have anaemia, your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be due to the insufficient number of RBCs reaching the tissues.
There are a few reasons why blood oxygen levels may be lower during sleep apnoea. One reason is that the airways may be obstructed, making it difficult for oxygen to get into the lungs. Additionally, when someone has sleep apnoea, they may not be breathing as deeply as they normally would. Finally, sleep apnoea can cause the body to release stress hormones that can constrict blood vessels and reduce oxygen levels in the blood.
Do I Need a Pulse Oximeter in My First Aid Kit?
A pulse oximeter is generally found in first aid kits. If an affected person is experiencing respiratory-related symptoms or is known to have a heart condition, using a pulse oximeter can help determine if oxygen therapy is needed.
How Should I Care for My Pulse Oximeter?
To ensure your pulse oximeter lasts for a long time and provides accurate readings, it is important to take good care of it. Here are some tips:
Keep the sensor clean
Wipe the sensor with a soft, dry cloth after each use. If the sensor becomes dirty or wet, it may not work properly.
Store the pulse oximeter in a cool, dry place
Do not store the pulse oximeter in direct sunlight or in an extremely hot or cold environment.
Avoid dropping or subjecting the pulse oximeter to impact
The impact on a pulse oximeter can damage its sensors and internals, causing it to provide inaccurate readings or stop working altogether.
In conclusion, pulse oximetry is a valuable tool for monitoring the oxygen saturation of a patient’s blood. By understanding the principles behind pulse oximetry, clinicians can ensure that their patients are receiving accurate readings.
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