Evaluation Background: Pulse Oximetry Technology

March 14, 2019 | Evaluations & Guidance

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Here's background for our Evaluations of pulse oximetry technologies, outlining the key considerations for making wise purchasing decisions. This information focuses on technologies that offer a solution that the hospital can implement throughout the continuum of care (i.e., both as part of stand-alone pulse oximeters and incorporated into devices such as multiparameter physiologic monitoring systems, defibrillators, and anesthesia monitors). Learn how the technology is used, typical cost of ownership, and what factors we test for. Also review our latest product ratings and ECRI Institute's data describing hospitals' interest in each vendor.

Pulse oximetry is used to noninvasively analyze arterial hemoglobin oxygen saturation (SpO2) and pulse rate (PR) in various clinical settings across the continuum of care. Pulse oximetry is used across a range of devices, both as part of stand-alone pulse oximeters and incorporated into devices such as multiparameter physiologic monitoring systems, defibrillators, and anesthesia monitors.

Overall, pulse oximetry is a mature technology. Technologies currently offer extended analysis of the photo plethysmographic (pleth) waveform; use of multiple wavelengths of light to quantify methemoglobin (SpMet), carboxyhemoglobin (SpCO), and total hemoglobin (SpHb) content in blood; and improved pulse oximeter signal processing during conditions of low signal-to-noise ratio. Ideally, to be a useful clinical tool, pulse oximetry technology should give real-time, continuous, and accurate measurements over a wide range of arterial oxygen saturation values, during all types of patient motion (continuous and intermittent, aperiodic and rhythmic), and during low perfusion.

Major device components include the following:

  1. A reusable or disposable pulse oximetry sensor, which is attached to the patient (e.g., finger, forehead, foot, ear) to acquire SpO2 measurements. The other end of the sensor is connected to a pulse oximetry cable.

  2. The pulse oximetry cable transmits the acquired SpO2 measurements to a display module, which could be...

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