Pulse Oximetry

March 1, 2011 | Aging Services Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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Pulse oximetry monitoring is already a standard of care across many care settings. There are several benefits to pulse oximetry, including the ability to noninvasively measure blood saturation. Measurements can be taken continuously for long-term monitoring or for spot checks. Deterioration of the person’s condition is quickly evident, and response to therapy—specifically, oxygen therapy—can be measured rapidly (Booker).

This Risk Analysis covers important topics related to pulse oximetry throughout the continuum of care, including the following issues:

Pulse oximeters display oxygen saturation (SpO2) and pulse rate. Some oximeters will display a plethysmogram, a waveform representing the strength and shape of the pulse oximetry signal (see How Pulse Oximetry Works).

SpO2 readings are displayed as a percentage; measurements can fall between 70% and 100%. Measurements typically range from 95% to 100%, but the most common reading on a healthy person is 97% (Booker). SpO2 and oxygen saturation measured via arterial blood gas (SaO2), an invasive but more direct measurement, can deviate somewhat from each other, but they should be relatively close—within ±2 standard deviations (ECRI “Accuracy”). If there is a difference of greater than 5% between the oxygen saturation reading taken from a pulse...

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