Oximeters are used to measure the patient’s pulse rate as well as the level of oxygen in their blood and there is a variety available of these devices.
Types of Pulse Oximeters
There are essentially 4 different types, and many models to choose from. The different models offer many different features, depending on your personal choices.
1 – Stationary
This type is mainly used by hospitals as part of a range of patient monitoring devices. They are normally quite big and not suitable for home use. These units are generally used in critical care sections of hospitals.
2 – Handheld oximeter
The handheld variant is generally used at medical clinics. The unit normally comes with a fingertip sensor which is attached to a display device, which is large enough to hold in your hand. These can be used for paediatric purposes, but with a smaller fingertip sensor. The handheld is used to monitor oxygen saturation levels and pulse rates. It is able to store the results, download the results and print relevant reports.
3 – Fingertip
The fingertip model is generally suitable for use at home and outside the hospital setting. These devices are clamped onto the patient’s fingertip to provide oxygen saturation results and pulse rate readings. These devices are small, simple to use, portable, and results are displayed digitally on the device.
4 – Wrist
The wrist model uses a sensor which is similar to the fingertip model; however, the display section of the unit attaches to the person’s wrist, like a watch. This particular type is ideal for those who do not wish to carry around one of the fingertip models. It is also ideal for those requiring continuous monitoring whilst moving about.
What is the best model for you?
The best pulse oximeter for you is dependent upon your particular needs. For those who are bed-ridden and need constant monitoring, a sophisticated, non-portable unit may be appropriate. For those who require the unit for occasional monitoring, a more portable unit may suffice.
Some units have alarms that can easily be set. This type may be required if a caregiver needs to be alerted when the levels drop.
The athletes who use the device for monitoring whilst training may find the wrist pulse oximeter suit their needs best, as they will be able to download and print the results.
To acquire the monitor most suited to your needs, you may have to discuss your needs with your physician.
Once you have purchased a pulse oximeter you need to know how to interpret the readings you receive. It is only by knowing how to do this that you will be able to tell if something is wrong or not. Of course, if you are struggling with the interpretation it might be best to consult your doctor as they will be able to explain the readings. However, there are a number of general guidelines that you can follow in order to better understand what your oximeter is telling you.
Most oximeters will give you a percentage reading when you use them. This is the number often found under the title SpO2 which is the technical term for blood oxygen saturation levels. This is the most important number that the device will give you and you need to understand what it means.
This reading is affected by a number of factors and the most important is your general health. If you have an ailment which affects the oxygen levels in the blood then you it is best to find out what the normal reading for you should be. For healthy individuals this reading should be around 94% to 99%. For people suffering from mild respiratory diseases the ideal reading is 90% and above. If your levels are below 90% then you should contact your doctor as you may need supplementary oxygen.
Another factor which can affect the readings you receive is hand movement. If your hands shake while you are using the device the reading you receive may be inaccurate. To remedy this issue you may need to stabilise your hand while using the device. You can also purchase devices which are motion resistance. These motion resistance devices will give accurate readings even if the hand is shaking or the device is moving.
While the percentage of oxygen in the blood is important you need to include other factors when interpreting the reading. The reading you get from the device is only one part in assessment criteria. Some of the other factors to look at would be breathing. It is not only irregular breathing that need to be documented. The respiratory rate needs to be documented along with the oximeter reading as this helps you better understand why you are getting the reading.
When using a pulse oximeter at home, it is important that you can properly interpret the results you are given. There are certain levels which are normal and other which require medical attention. By understanding what these are, you will be able to properly understand your oximeter readings. You should see the additional resources as well to understand these readings in a batter way.