To achieve a safe, quick, and least invasive means to determine a patient's oxygen saturation is with the use of pulse oximeter. A pulse oximeter is a non-invasive medical instrument that indirectly measures the oxygen saturation in the blood. By testing the oxygen saturation, the amount of oxygen being carried by the red blood cells is being measured.
The reading obtained through an oximeter uses a light sensor containing two sources of light, the red and infrared, and are absorbed by hemoglobin. It is then transmitted through tissues to a photodetector. The amount of light transmitted through the tissue is converted to a digital value representing the percentage of hemoglobin saturated with oxygen.
There are various steps to consider when measuring oxygen saturation through the use of oximeter. First, select the appropriate oximeter that fits your needs. There are varying types of oximeter that can be used. Among those types, portable handheld and fingertip pulse oximeter is one of the most popular. Second, plug the oximeter into grounded wall outlet if the unit is not transferrable. But if the unit is portable, then ensure sufficient battery charge by turning it on first before using.
Third, wash your hands. This will help reduce transmission of microorganisms and body secretions. Fourth, put the robe onto your finger or earlobe, and turn on the oximeter. To obtain accurate SpO2 measurements, adequate arterial pulse strength is necessary.
There are few reminders when using an oximeter. Dried blood, nail polish and anything that can absorb light should be removed because it will cause false-low readings. Never apply the pulse oximeter sensor on a finger that is using an automatic blood pressure cuff. This blood flow to the finger will be cut off when the cuff inflates. Also, one should be reminded that movement is the common cause of inaccurate SpO2 readings.
By considering the steps and the reminders mentioned on using pulse oximeter, patients can obtain accurate oxygen saturation result especially in emergency situations where a millisecond matters. It is advisable to not use pulse oximetry for some chronic conditions, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. Because, here, the patient may have chronically low oxygen levels and it is dangerous to raise them too high.