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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Tests and Exams > Pulse Oximetry
      Category : Health Centers > Respiratory System (Lungs and Breathing)

Pulse Oximetry

Alternate Names : Oxygen Saturation, O2 Saturation

Overview & Description | Preparation & Expectations | Results and Values

Pulse oximetry is a way to measure the level of oxygen in the blood of the arteries. The measurement is express as a ratio of oxygenated hemoglobin to the total amount of hemoglobin. It is called SaO2. This is a noninvasive test, which means that the skin does not have to be broken to perform the test.

Who is a candidate for the test?

Pulse oximetry is commonly used to monitor the level of oxygen in a person's blood during heavy sedation or anesthesia. It can often detect problems before they are noticed by the person or by a healthcare professional.

This test is also used for a person who is on a ventilator, or artificial breathing machine. The SaO2 helps the health care provider determine whether the person needs a change to the level of oxygen therapy being delivered.

Pulse oximetry can also be used in other clinical settings. These may include pulmonary rehabilitation programs, stress testing, and sleep labs. It can be used to check the body's response to different medications.

A healthcare provider may also order this test at an office visit. This may be done in the case of a child or adult with asthma who is having trouble breathing.

How is the test performed?

A small clip with a sensor is attached to the person's finger, earlobe, or toe. The sensor is connected to the pulse oximeter machine by a small cable. The sensor gives off a light signal that passes through the skin. The sensor measures the amount of light the tissue absorbs. This information is transmitted to the pulse oximeter. A reading is given in a percentage form.


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Pulse Oximetry: Preparation & Expectations

Author: Pam Rosenthal, RN, BSN, CCM
Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Date Reviewed: 09/04/01

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