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Finger pulse oximeters

by vincentgillbert

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A finger pulse oximeter is a device that allows people with COPD to monitor their blood oxygen levels. This makes it an invaluable tool because it helps patients better manages their condition, particularly if they are on oxygen therapy.

If your friend or loved one doesn't yet have one of these devices, this would be a great gift. COPD often inhibits people's ability to do everyday things such as eating at restaurants or going out to movies. In severe cases, it can even interfere with people's ability to leave their house for anything.

Pulse oximetry is a simple non-invasive method of monitoring the percentage of hemoglobin (Hb) which is saturated with oxygen. The pulse oximeter consists of a probe attached to the patient's finger or ear lobe which is linked to a computerized unit. The unit displays the percentage of Hb saturated with oxygen together with an audible signal for each pulse beat, a calculated heart rate and in some models, a graphical display of the blood flow past the probe. Audible alarms which can be programmed by the user are provided. An oximeter detects hypoxia before the patient becomes clinically cyanosed.

A source of light originates from the probe at two wavelengths. The light is partly absorbed by hemoglobin, by amounts which differ depending on whether it is saturated or desaturated with oxygen. By calculating the absorption at the two wavelengths the processor can compute the proportion of hemoglobin which is oxygenated. The oximeter is dependent on a pulsatile flow and produces a graph of the quality of flow. Where flow is sluggish the pulse oximeter may be unable to function. The computer within the oximeter is capable of distinguishing pulsatile flow from other more static signals (such as tissue or venous signals) to display only the arterial flow.

Pulse ox meter is useful in any setting where a patient's oxygenation is unstable, including intensive care, operating, recovery, emergency and hospital ward settings, pilots in unpressurized aircraft, for assessment of any patient's oxygenation, and determining the effectiveness of or need for supplemental oxygen. Assessing a patient's need for oxygen is the most essential element to life; no human life thrives in the absence of oxygen. Because of their simplicity of use and the ability to provide continuous and immediate oxygen saturation values, pulse oximeters are of critical importance in emergency medicine and are also very useful for patients with respiratory or cardiac problems, especially COPD, or for diagnosis of some sleep disorders such as apnea and hyperpnoea. Portable battery-operated pulse oximeters are useful for pilots operating in a non-pressurized aircraft above 10,000 feet. Where supplemental oxygen is required.


• Turn the pulse oximeter on: it will go through internal calibration and checks. Select the appropriate probe with particular attention to correct sizing and where it will go (usually finger, toe or ear).  If used on a finger or toe, make sure the area is clean.  Remove any nail varnish. Connect the probe to the pulse oximeter. Position the probe carefully; make sure it fits easily without being too loose or too tight.

• If possible, avoid the arm being used for blood pressure monitoring as cuff inflation will interrupt the pulse oximeter signal. Allow several seconds for the pulse oximeter to detect the pulse and calculate the oxygen saturation. Look for the displayed pulse indicator that shows that the machine has detected a pulse. Without a pulse signal, any readings are meaningless.  Once the unit has detected a good pulse, the oxygen saturation and pulse rate will be displayed. Like all machines, oximeters may occasionally give a false reading - if in doubt, rely on your clinical judgment, rather than the machine. The function of the oximeter probe can be checked by placing it on your own finger.

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