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wiping with a 70% IPA swab, for example) and battery-saving features such as automatically turning off when a finger is withdrawn.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.
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.
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.
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.
Go to the Medisave UK website for the full pulse oximeter range.
Written by Dr Surina Chibber, founder and Director of MyLocumManager Ltd.