How To Utilize a Pulse Oximeter

by Bethany
[nextpage title=”Next” ]

Seniors should monitor their health even when not at the doctor’s office. Practicing preventative health care can save a trip to the emergency room. A pulse oximeter is an affordable and easy-to-use device that can help monitor respiratory and cardiac status. Real-time data can be obtained regarding important vital signs such as oxygen saturation, heart rate, and heart rhythm. Oximeters can be combined with blood pressure monitors to give vital information about a person’s health status.

How To Utilize a Pulse Oximeter

People with chronic lung or heart conditions who may need emergency care will benefit greatly from having an oximeter. People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, and who receive supplemental oxygen therapy at home can use an oximeter to ensure that they are receiving adequate oxygen levels in their blood. Adequate oxygenation is vital for organ function.

Doctors may recommend home oximetry to patients so that they can analyze the vital signs data and determine whether treatment methods need to be adjusted. These devices are used in people of all ages from infants to elderly. Normal oxygenation is 95% or greater, although people with chronic lung diseases may operate at a lower baseline. These oximeter devices can monitor oxygen levels throughout the day so that treatment can be modified accordingly.

What Is A Pulse Oximeter

A pulse oximeter is a small medical device that measures peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2), which is the amount of oxygen in the blood vessels. SpO2 is a reliable approximation of arterial tissue oxygen saturation (SaO2), which is the amount of oxygen in the blood perfusing the body’s tissues and organs. The device enables a noninvasive and painless way to quickly measure oxygen saturation. The device is usually attached to the finger or ear lobe in adults and the toe or foot in infants. Spectrophotometry is the science behind these oximeters.

For example, when the device is attached to one’s finger, light of two separate wavelengths differentiates between oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen and changes shape depending on whether an oxygen molecule is attached. A detector in the oximeter detects the amount of light absorbed, and the values are used to calculate oxygen saturation using an equation known as the Beer-Lambert Law. Additionally, these devices can also detect heart rate.

[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next” ]

Who Needs a Pulse Oximeter

Pulse oximeters are used widely by doctors and nurses in hospitals and other medical settings. However, seniors can also benefit from having their own personal oximeter, which is portable and can be carried at all times. Certain health conditions warrant closer monitoring of oxygen levels. COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a common condition in seniors. In general, seniors with chronic respiratory and cardiovascular conditions the may require frequent pulse oximetry monitoring for oxygenation and pulse rate. These conditions include emphysema, asthma, community acquired pneumonia, heart attack, and heart failure. Being able to detect unstable vital signs early allows seniors to seek emergent medical care without delay.

[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next” ]

Where Do You Buy a Pulse Oximeter

The devices can be purchased in many local pharmacies. Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Costco and CVS are examples of stores that carry these devices. Seniors looking for a pulse oximeter can consult the pharmacist in the store for recommendations and instructions on how to use the pulse oximeter. In this age of e-commerce, many of these brick and mortar stores also offer online shopping through their website. Seniors can also opt to order oximeters online and have them delivered home. Amazon offers an abundance of oximeters at various price points. Pulse oximeters do not require a prescription from the doctor and can be purchased over the counter.

[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next” ]

New vs. Used Pulse Oximeter

These devices can last many years through normal use. Financial implications will determine whether it is more reasonable to purchase a new or used pulse oximeter. Basic oximeters that do not cost as much should be purchased new. Because of the low cost of certain oximeters, it will be difficult to find one in the used market. One may be able to buy used low-cost oximeters in online auctions such as Ebay, but usually these will be sold in bulk. It may be financially beneficial to buy in bulk if a group of seniors are looking to purchase together. More expensive oximeters, such as those that offer continuous data, can be purchased at a fraction of the price when used. Regardless of whether one buys new or used, it is important to determine the type of oximeter best suited for one’s personal needs.

[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next” ]

Average Cost of a Pulse Oximeter

Pulse oximeters are available in a wide range of price points. The average cost of a basic pulse oximeter is typically $20 or less. Many pharmacies include pulse oximeters in year-round sales. These devices can be purchased for around $10 when on sale or with coupons. The average cost of a new device that offers more functions like continuous oxygenation and pulse rate monitory is typically $100 or more. A used pulse oximeter with multiple functions can be purchased for $50 or less. Mid-range pulse oximeters that have the ability to transfer data to a computer or smart phone application costs on average round $30 to $50.

[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next” ]

Uses and Benefits of a Pulse Oximeter

Pulse oximeters are advantageous for their portability. It is an alternative to having to draw blood from the artery to send to a laboratory to measure oxygenation. For many seniors, having the ability to self-monitor oxygenation and heart rate whether on a plane or at home allows for them to seek help promptly. Seniors who have sleep apnea or hypopnea, which causes them to stop breathing for short periods of time in their sleep, can benefit from an oximeter that produces an alarm when oxygenation levels fall below normal. In the setting of a heart attack that does not produce alarming symptoms of chest pain or syncope, detection of low oxygenation or pulse can prevent delay of emergency care.

[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next” ]

Different Models of Pulse Oximeters

There are many options for different types of oximeters. Finger oximeters provide real-time data on an LED display and are known for their low-cost and portability. Many come with a small carrying case. Wrist oximeters are worn like a watch around the wrist. This allows 24-hour monitoring of vital signs without interfering with daily tasks that require use of the hands. Handheld oximeters are the type used in hospitals and clinics by doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists. These devices can detect abnormal heart beats in addition to heart rate and oxygenation. The most expensive oximeters are those connected to a cardiac monitor and are typically used in intensive care units in hospitalized patients.