Finger Pulse Oximeters (Pulse Ox)
What They Are & What They Do:
Below is a very simplified explanation for a very complex piece of equipment. If you would like a more technical in-depth explanation visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulse_oximetry
There's 2 methods to check the oxygen in your blood:
The first is a test called an "Arterial Blood Gas" or "ABG" for short. Blood is drawn from an artery (rather than a vein), usually in the wrist and "sometimes" can be painful. The ABG's measure more than just your oxygen saturation and although very accurate, your blood oxygenation can change quickly so one reading today may not be the same as tomorrow.
The second way is non-invasive and uses a small device that is quite often clipped on the finger. A pulse oximeter. It uses red and infrared light and measures/ monitors the amount of oxygen being carried in your blood . Blood that's well oxygenated is lighter and absorbs more infrared light; poorly oxygenated blood is much darker and absorbs more red light. The two amounts are read and calculated. The result is your blood oxygen percentage.
Keep in mind there's also a few things which can effect the readings including;
Why Have One?
Many COPDer's, especially those on oxygen, like to keep a check on their saturation levels. Some of us use it when exercising or if we're not feeling up to par or fighting an infection. When used properly it can be very beneficial and add a bit of a comfort. It can also be used to let you know if/when it's time to slow down and relax and/or do your pursed lip breathing to help bring your sats back up. However; If a drop is more prolonged it can alert you that maybe there's more going on and you should see your Dr.
Incidentally; people with COPD are not the only ones who use a portable Finger Pulse Ox. Many others use them in a non medical environment; including athletes and pilots.
Why "NOT" to Have One:
Sometimes people get too involved and see any deviation in their saturation levels as something to be concerned. In other words they read and watch it too much. Like your blood pressure, it will fluctuate. That's normal.
Some of our GP's think it's great, others Don't. Only you can decide.
WHERE To Purchase One:
There's a number of companies you can google selling pulse oximeters on the Internet. or you can check out FaCT Canada which offers COPD Canada Patient Network Members a discount on a number of Finger (including Pediatric) and wrist Pulse Oximeters.
This page was last updated June 6th, 2012