How To Choose The Best Pulse Oximeter For Your Doctor’s Bag

Pulse oximetry is a simple, noninvasive and reliable method for rapidly assessing arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2/SpO2) and pulse rate in patients. It is a useful tool for assessing both adults and children.

The main indications of pulse oximetry include the assessment of acute respiratory infections, asthma, COPD and heart failure. In these situations it can provide valuable information about the severity of the illness and help when deciding on the need for hospital referral or admission.

What Are The Guidelines?

In the General Practice setting, the importance of measuring oxygen saturations has been emphasised in the NICE guidelines on COPD, the SIGN guidelines on asthma and community acquired pneumonia and the NICE sepsis guidelines. Assessing oxygen saturation should be used alongside clinical assessment, not as a standalone indicator.

Additionally, pulse oximetry helps to ensure that hypoxic patients are treated appropriately with oxygen. The NICE sepsis guidelines highlight the importance of assessing oxygen saturations when risk stratifying patients.

How Much Do They Cost?

All-in-one pulse oximeters can vary greatly in price from under £10 to over £200.

How Do I Choose A Pulse Oximeter?

There is so much choice available that it can be difficult to know where to begin. When selecting a pulse oximeter for your doctor’s’ bag, ensure that it is:

  • Lightweight & Portable – Keeping your doctor’s bag as light as possible will make your life much easier when you’re on the move.
  • Simple-To-Use – With just 10 minutes per consultation, the quicker you can perform an examination, the sooner you can help the patient. A simple-to-use pulse oximeter opens like a crocodile clip and should be able to be used on a wide variety of patients.
  • Cost-Effective – Nowadays, you don’t need a top-of-the-range model to see great results. A £30 model will serve as well, if not better than a £100+ model as they are often more lightweight and aren’t as expensive to replace if they become damaged or go missing.
  • Reliable & Accurate – It should go without saying that when assessing a patient, accurate and reliable results are essential. Look for models with signal strength indicators as one of the main causes of inaccuracy in oximetry is incorrect finger insertion.

Additional useful features include being easy to clean (by wiping with a 70% IPA swab, for example) and battery-saving features such as automatically turning off when a finger is withdrawn.

A Note On Assessing Children

When assessing children make sure you invest in a paediatric pulse oximeter as obtaining a correct fit is important to give an accurate reading. In the past, many GPs had to resort to using an adult pulse oximeter to try to assess a sick child. The readings that resulted were often incorrect, if they could be obtained at all.

As you can see above, the adult pulse oximeter (right) is too large to be used effectively on paediatric patients. The two paediatric pulse oximeters fit much more closely, keeping the sensor in contact with the skin and giving more reliable results.

At Medisave, there is a wide range of high-quality, adult and paediatric pulse oximeters from tried and trusted brands including Nonin, ChoiceMMed, Daray and many more.

Medisave Best Sellers

choicemmed md300-d finger pulse oximeter

ChoiceMMed MD300-D Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

£29.99 (ON OFFER)

Our most popular model, the MD300-D has a clear OLED display showing SpO2, pulse rate and waveform and can be configured exactly how you like it.

Find it here

choicemmed md300-c5 paediatric pulse oximeter

ChoiceMMed MD300-C5 Paediatric Pulse Oximeter

£37.49 (ON OFFER)

Our most popular paediatric model, the MD300-C5 is exceptionally lightweight, colourful and provides fast, accurate measurements.

Find it here

Nonin 9590 Pulse Oximeters

Nonin Onyx Vantage 9590 Finger Pulse Oximeter

£122.49 (ON OFFER)

The Nonin 9590 is a multi-function finger pulse oximeter for both adult and paediatric use. Lightweight, ISO compliant and comes in a choice of four colours.

Find it here

Go to the Medisave UK website for the full pulse oximeter range.

Written by Dr Surina Chibber, founder and Director of MyLocumManager Ltd.

5 thoughts on “How To Choose The Best Pulse Oximeter For Your Doctor’s Bag”

  1. Another thing to consider when buying a pulse oximeter is to ensure that it is capable of displaying a plethysmograph so that you can be sure that the values being displayed are actually accurate.

    1. That’s a great point Adrian! Both the ChoiceMMed models in the Best Sellers section have a pleth waveform display (which can be customised). The Nonin doesn’t but it does have a pulse quality indicator (not quite the same but useful for making sure that it is correctly positioned).

  2. The Nonin’s simple Signal Quality Indicator is the advanced technoligy successor to the Pleth Waveform as it interprets the Pleth Waveform internally and assesses if the signal quality and strength it is receiving allow the Nonin Oximeter to operate withing its known accurate operating envelope. If it is it gives a Green light to show that the results displayed are accurate. If it needs repositioning then it will show Orange or Red.
    This is far superior to a tiny Pleth Waveform that most people can’t see or interpret and which leaves the user to try to guess if the reading is within the unknown accurate operating envelope. Not reliable and not satisfactory. The Nonin Signal Quality System is reliable and ensures that only accurate readings are taken….. surely a major advance?

    1. Hi Elisa,

      For very young children (below around age 2-3) pulse oximeters are a lot more “specialist”. Paediatricians will often use something like the SpectrO2 with a wrap-on sensor. Unfortunately at the moment, there aren’t many “off the shelf” infant pulse oximeters.

      I hope this helps
      -Tim

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