How To Operate Or Use A Pulse Oximeter Correctly?

The condition of a person’s blood tells a lot about his or her health. A healthy person should have enough white blood cells to fight infection and red blood cells as well. However, that is not the only measure of how healthy your blood is. Another test that one cannot ignore is to conduct using a pulse oximeter probe. What the device does is to measure the amount of oxygen that the patient has in his or her hemoglobin. Naturally, healthy blood means that it is oxygenated because that is the only way that it can supply nutrients and minerals all throughout the body. The question now is how to operate one correctly. We are well aware that medical professionals such as doctors and nurses know how to use the device but can normal patients use it as well despite their lack of training? Let us find out. Here are the steps for you.

  1. Firstly, the clip of the oximeter can be clipped to any of the following areas of the body – finger, toe, on the bridge of the nose or the earlobe. Due to ease, however, most people prefer to just clip it on their finger. For the ladies, please keep in mind that it will never work correctly when you are wearing a nail polish so you must remove it before performing the test. Otherwise, you will not get an accurate result.
  2. Remember that the proper way to use it is by placing the finger (or any of the mentioned body parts) in the area where the red light is. As a trivia, the device tends to work best when placed on the index finger or ring finger.
  3. While the procedure is happening, do your best to stay still so that the reading of the machine will be accurate. Moving your finger or your arm will get in the way. To keep your arm stable, place it on the arm of your chair. You have to stay still until the number flashes on the display screen.
  4. When it is taking time for the device to flash a reading, be patient because it can take only a few seconds or a full minute. You know that the device is working if there is a green light flashing. If there is a problem, the device will flash a red light. That is how it should work.
  5. The number that will be flashed on the display screen of the device will be in percentage. Just like an exam, the best result that you can possibly get is 100 percent. However, if you score any number between 95 to 99 percent, do not worry. That is a pretty good result which means that there is enough oxygen in your hemoglobin. Any number below 95 may mean that there is a problem so talk to your physician about it.

That is how simple it is to use a pulse oximeter correctly.

Who Should Use A Pulse Oximeter?

A pulse oximeter can be useful in any form of setting where a person’s oxygenation is unstable and requires monitoring. It can also be used as a life saving medical device during emergency. The following describes areas where it is usually found and people who use it.

Hospital Patients

In hospitals, this device are usually used to monitor patients’ oxygenation and their pulse rates during surgical procedures especially with anaesthesia or conscious sedation. Areas where they can be found are accident & emergency wards or operating theaters.

Pulse oximeters are also used by patients under the recovery phase after surgery in areas like ITU (Intensive Therapy/Treatment Unit) or ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and wards.

Due to its simplicity and speed of usage, it could be a life saving device for patients with severe breathing, lungs or heart related problems. For people with certain sleeping disorders like hypopnea or apnea, this device will be excellent for them to perform diagnosis.

Pilots In Non-Pressurized Aircrafts

Hand-held portable pulse oximeters are used by pilots in non-pressurized air-crafts to assess their oxygenation and determine if there is a need to have supplemental oxygen or how effective is the supplemental oxygen in the setting.

Mountain Climbers On Mountains With High Altitudes

Mountain climbers on high-altitude mountains are also using a portable device like this to monitor their blood oxygen levels since there is a decrease in oxygen under that kind of environment.

Athletes Who Train And Exercise Regularly

Athletes who engage themselves in training or exercises can use one to monitor their blood oxygen since their oxygen levels may drop during exercising.

Patients Who Suffer From Asthma Or Lung Diseases

Most commonly than not, people who suffer from serious breathing problems like asthma, or lung diseases like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) use a pulse oximeter to constantly monitor their oxygen levels from time to time as insufficient oxygen in blood can sometimes be fatal.

How To Choose A Pulse Oximeter?

A pulse oximeter is a medical device designed to measure the oxygen level in human blood. Portable pulse oximeters that are clipped onto the end of the finger, over the nails to perform its function, it is also known as a finger pulse oximeter. While shopping for your ideal pulse oximeter, there are a few things below you need to look out for.

How To Choose Your Pulse Oximeter?

1. Select one that suit your needs. Larger models which come with better and more complex features are mostly used in public hospitals, while hand-held or portable fingertip pulse oximeters will be better choices for home or sport/fitness usage.

2. Choose one that have been tried and tested by others before. Read their reviews and testimonials for the pros and cons. Do your home work well before investing your money.

3. The price of a pulse oximeter can range from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousands. You need to figure out your budget and pick one that is within your budget. Do note that it doesn’t always mean an expensive one is a high quality one, though in most cases it is. You need a device which gives you accurate results, reliable oxygen saturation readings and pulse rates.

4. Choose one that is user-friendly or easy to use. You wouldn’t want to get one that takes hours to figure out how to operate, especially you will be operating the device yourself. Make sure the salesman demonstrate and explain to you the way to use it, so that you can start using it right away when you get it home.

5. Get one that offers a full refund if you are not satisfied with the results for at least a reasonable period of time. During this time, you may like to test the pulse oximeter against someone who can manually take your pulse and oxygen saturation measurements to compare the readings and make sure that the one you choose is the most accurate.


– If you are getting a pulse oximeter for medical use, make sure that you go for one that is FDA approved.

– If you are buying one online, always research for merchant sites that have best reputation for affordable prices, quick shipping, best warranties and customer service.

Always spend some time to research for a good pulse oximeter, then to waste money to buy one blindly. Hope my tips above will help you in making the right decision.

What Is A Pulse Oximeter?

A pulse oximeter is a medical device which fundamentally measures the arterial oxygen saturation of haemoglobin (Hb) of a patient, with a probe attached to his/her body where the blood flow is excellent for more concise results. The ideal spots are finger, toe or ear lobe which is then linked to a computerized unit. This method of measuring oxygen in blood is known as Pulse Oximetry.

How Does A Pulse Oximeter Work?

A pulse oximeter uses red and infrared light to detect oxygen in the patient’s blood stream. Infrared light would be absorbed more by hemoglobin which carries the oxygen, but red light will be allowed to pass through. On the other hand, red light would be absorbed more by hemoglobin without much oxygen but infrared light will be allowed to pass through. Once the information are gathered and transmitted to the machine or device, the ratios of red to infrared light are calculated and compared to a model table to determine the results. A good reading usually ranges between 90 to 100 saturation.

Conventional And Newer Generation Of Pulse Oximeters

Conventional pulse oximeters have some disadvantages. Whenever there are movements or poor blood circulation, the accuracy of the readings will be affected. As a result, it makes it very difficult to make medical decisions. To overcome this, an additional arterial blood gas test is usually required to validate pulse oximeter readings. “Newer Generation” of pulse oximeters on the market have significantly improved the ability to read through motion and low perfusion issues.

My next article will explain more in details on how to choose a pulse oximeter.

Understanding Arterial Blood Gas Test

An Arterial Blood Gas Test is a more comprehensive blood test (also known as an ABG test) that measures the acidity and level of oxygen and carbon dioxide specifically in the blood from an artery. During this test, the following will be checked and measured.

  • The pressure of oxygen dissolved in the human blood and how smooth the oxygen can move from the airspace of the lungs into the blood.
  • The pressure of carbon dioxide dissolved in the blood and how well carbon dioxide can move out of the human body.
  • The acidity (pH) or amount of hydrogen ions (H+) in the blood.
  • The amount of bicarbonate in the blood.
  • The amount of oxygen in the blood.
  • The amount of hemoglobin in the red blood cells carrying oxygen.

What Is An Arterial Blood Gas Test For?

Such test is usually done to check for patients with severe breathing problems and lung diseases i.e. asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), check if patients are getting the right amount of oxygen or if extra oxygen is needed in the hospital, check if treatment for lung diseases is effective, as well as measure the acid-base level in the blood of patients with heart or kidney failure, uncontrolled diabetes, severe infections or sleeping disorders.

Before going for an arterial blood gas test, make sure that you talk to your health care provider about any concern you have i.e. the risks involved, how will it be done, and what does the result mean.

Causes And Symptoms Of Poor Blood Circulation

Do you suffer from poor blood circulation? If you do, we would strongly recommend that you should visit your health care provider immediately to seek medical advice. However, if you do not know what is poor blood circulation, you may like to read more in this article.

What Are The Causes?

Poor blood circulation is an outcome of several factors i.e. imbalanced diet and lack of exercise as well as certain lifestyle choices we made which are detrimental to our health. It does not take a day to happen hence poor blood circulation is usually a result of aging since it affect the elders more.

How Does Poor Blood Circulation Happen?

Due to imbalanced diet and lack of exercise, plagues (fatty deposits when hardened) are formed on the blood arterial walls. As a result, the blood passage to and from the heart becomes obstructed and the blood are not circulated well.

What Are The Symptoms?

When a person suffers from poor blood circulation, below are a list of symptoms which might be observed. You may have some or in worse case, all the symptoms depending on your health condition.

  • Loss of memory, lack of mental clarity, feeling lethargic, unexplained headaches and sudden dizziness.
  • Chest pain, shortness of breathe, altered heart rate, feeling tired easily and all the time.
  • Sudden numbness of hands, feet and fingers or painful leg cramps. Lack of appetite, sudden loss of weight or luster-less skin.
  • Lack of sex drive or fatigue. Lack of vitality and energy.

Understanding causes and symptoms of poor blood circulation now is essential to prevent serious blood circulation problems in future.

Understanding Blood Circulation

Blood circulation is also known as human circulatory system. The key components of a human circulatory system is the heart, the blood and the blood vessels.

Understanding What Is Circulatory System

It is an organ system that is collectively made up of the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems. The cardiovascular system is formed by the heart, blood and blood vessels whereas the lymphatic system is formed by the lymph, lymph nodes, and lymph vessels. Blood and lymph fluids move through the circulatory system. The human digestive system works with the circulatory system to provide nutrients to its needs to keep the heart pumping.

Understanding What Is Blood Circulation

Human blood circulation comprises mainly 2 forms of circulations, the pulmonary and systemic circulations. During pulmonary circulation, the human blood is oxygenated after a loop through the lung. As for systemic circulation, the blood is circulated (loop) through the rest of the body to provide oxygenated blood.

Blood circulation helps to move nutrients, gases or even waste, to and from cells. This would then help in fighting diseases and stabilizing blood temperature and pH to maintain homeostasis.

What Is Pulse Oximetry?

A Pulse Oximetry in simple explanation, is a simple, non-invasive method of monitoring the percentage of a patient’s hemoglobin (Hb) which is saturated with oxygen (oxygenation).

In many circumstance, the Pulse Oximetry data is necessary whenever a patient’s blood oxygenation is unstable and needs to be monitored closely, including intensive care, critical care and emergency areas of a hospital. However, if you need to perform simple Pulse Oximetry at home, you may do so with a Pulse Oximeter.

Note(s) :

Pulse Oximetry cannot determine the metabolism of oxygen or the amount of oxygen used by the patient. Hence for this purpose, it is necessary to measure the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels too.


Written And Updated On : 15th November 2008

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