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How To Interpret Pulse Oximeter Readings

How To Interpret Pulse Oximeter Readings

  • 25 September, 2020
  • CMI Health Inc

Pulse oximeter devices are primary pieces of medical equipment that have been redesigned for personal, in-home use. Made to detect and measure a person’s pulse, as well as their overall blood oxygen concentration, these tools are incredibly helpful to keep you informed about your health. However, as easy as these models are to use, pulse oximeter owners often find themselves confused by the readings their device provides and what different readings mean. This is how to interpret pulse oximeter readings and what to know about the specific numbers it calculates.

Taking Your Pulse

For your rechargeable pulse oximeter to correctly calculate how much oxygen is in your system, it must first have a clear picture of how much blood is pumping through your veins. Red blood cells carry oxygen to different parts of the body, and your pulse acts as a key indicator of how fast these cells, and the oxygen, are moving at a given time. Your pulse, therefore, allows the machine to estimate what percentage of those red blood cells, or hemoglobin, are actively carrying oxygen at the time of the reading (see our guide on understanding how to use a pulse oximeter). For a healthy adult, pulse measurements between 60 and 100 are considered normal.

Reading Blood Oxygen Saturation Levels

When it comes to understanding your blood oxygen saturation, or SpO2 levels, it’s crucial to think about the number as a percentage rather than a rate. For instance, if the meter reads 75, it means that your oxygen levels are at 75 percent of your full capacity. For healthy individuals, readings should fall between 94 and 99 percent with little issue. Even those with respiratory conditions should be able to measure above 90 percent. However, if your SpO2 falls bellow 90, your body will not be able to sustain itself for a long period of time, and you’ll need to take immediate action to resolve the issue.

Be Aware of Limitations

When learning how to interpret pulse oximeter readings, it’s also important to understand some of the device’s limitations. As far as modern medical technology has come, nothing short of professional hospital equipment can give perfect readings every time. In fact, depending on the model you own, there could be a variation of up to two percent in either direction of your specified saturation. Even so, pulse oximeters are still very accurate and an incredibly helpful device to have for at home health monitoring. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to have this potential variance in mind when recording your findings.

Keep in mind as well that normal readings can differ depending on the subject being monitored. For instance, a healthy adult won’t have a heart rate that exceeds 100 beats per minute, but an infant’s pulse can reach 115 bpm on average. As alarming as this difference can appear at first, it won’t affect their required oxygen percentage, and a normal SpO2 should still read above 94 percent.

Interested in purchasing your own Pulse Oximeter? View our collection of easy to use, clinical grade monitoring devices here.

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