Pulse Oximetry is a test used in measuring the oxygen saturation or the oxygen levels in your blood. It is an easy and painless method of knowing how well the oxygen circulates the parts of your body furthest from the heart. That includes the arms and legs. It can rapidly detect even the smallest changes when it comes to efficient oxygen distribution. Even doctors advise their patients to have one at home and learn how to use a fingertip pulse oximeter.
This device is small and clip-like, which allows it to be attached directly to a particular body part like the earlobe or toes. The pulse oximeter is more commonly put on a finger to be used in hospitals, emergency rooms, or other critical care settings. Pulmonologists also use this device in their office. In this article, you will find out the different uses and how to use a fingertip pulse oximeter.
Purposes of a Pulse Oximeter
The ultimate purpose of a pulse oximeter is to test if your heart is efficiently pumping oxygen. Other objectives include the monitoring of individuals with types of conditions that may affect blood oxygen levels. This is especially true when they are confined in a hospital. These conditions include:
- Lung cancer
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Heart attack or heart failure
- Congenital Heart Defects
Additionally, there are also other common uses for a pulse oximeter which include:
- To monitor the condition of patients during or after surgery and their oxygen levels especially when they get sedated
- To evaluate whether a ventilator is helpful for a patient’s condition
- To assess whether or not the patient is struggling with breathing
- To evaluate the effectiveness of a new lung medication
- To evaluate whether or not the patient has trouble breathing while sleeping like in cases of sleep apnea
- To assess whether someone has high or low tolerance when it comes to physical activities
- To determine the effectiveness of a supplemental oxygen therapy especially when it involves a new kind of treatment
How Does a Pulse Oximeter Work?
In a session of pulse oximetry reading, a small clip-like device is placed on the earlobe, finger, or toe. It measures the amount of oxygen through the low beams of light that pass through the blood in a specific body part. The whole process is accomplished by measuring changes in oxygenated blood. Rest assured, the entire process is painless.
Thus, in a nutshell, a pulse oximeter determines your oxygen saturation levels and heart rate.
How to Use Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
Pulse Oximetry may be done in both outpatient and inpatient settings. Some doctors often recommend that patients secure their pulse oximeter for home use.
This is how you use your pulse oximeter if you are planning to use them at home:
- Place the clip-like device on your earlobe, finger, or toe. You may feel a noticeable amount of pressure, but you will not feel anything painful like pinching sensations. In rare cases, nurses place the pulse oximeter probe on your forehead or finger with a sticky adhesive. If your fingers have nail polish, you would need to remove the nail polish.
- Keep the probe on throughout the process of monitoring your oxygen saturation and pulse. In tracking the patient’s capabilities to perform physical activity, the duration of the recovery period and extent of exercise are included. If you use the device during surgery, the probe is attached until the end of the operation when you are awake. This also consists of the time when you are no longer under supervision.
- After the necessary tests, the probe or clip shall be removed.
Are Pulse Oximetry Readings Accurate?
Pulse Oximetry is a reasonably accurate test. This is true for most hospitals and clinics that use high-quality equipment. The results are usually provided within a two percent difference. For instance, if your result was 82 percent, your real saturation level could be anywhere from 80 to 84 percent. Nevertheless, the waveform quality and individual assessment must still be taken into account. There are also other factors, such as movement, temperature, or unremoved nail polish, that can affect the accuracy of your results.
The average blood percentage that should be carrying oxygen in your body is 89 percent. This is the oxygen required to keep your body and other cells healthy.
What are the Risks of Pulse Oximetry?
Every medical procedure has risks, and in pulse oximetry, the following are the risks:
- It might come up with an incorrect reading when the probe or clip falls off the finger, earlobe, or toe.
- It may also cause skin irritation from the adhesive when used through the probe.
These are the only possible risks that you may incur during the process. Nothing severe, right? The chances also depend on your general health and other factors. Ask your healthcare provider which risk might apply to you. Do not be afraid to raise any concerns you have.
What Happens After the Pulse Oximetry?
If you take the test in a hospital, then they will ask you to go home after all the necessary procedures. You may also go back to your regular diet and other activities unless otherwise instructed by your healthcare provider. Moreover, there will be additional instructions if they find a discrepancy in the test.
As you can see, knowing how to use a fingertip pulse oximeter is essential to understand the overall condition of your body. It is also relatively easy to use and has low risks aside from the possible errors and allergies from the adhesives. People get intimidated by using a fingertip pulse oximeter on their own when they should not be. Doctors are not readily available for on-call checkups in case you might feel something iffy or under the weather. Health is wealth, so check yours once in a while. Find out more about first aid.