Here is the first post in our “Teaching with a Twist” series:
At some point you have probably thought about buying or have already bought a pulse oximeter. I want to take a few minutes and talk about what a pulse oximeter is measuring, the device accuracy, and what the numbers mean.
A pulse oximeter sometimes goes by other names. You might see it referred to as a pulse ox, SpO2 meter, or sat monitor. They are used to see how well you are ‘oxygenating’ - how oxygen rich your blood is.
Here’s how they work: When you place the pulse ox clip on your finger, the device sends out a couple of beams of light through your skin.Those beams of light are trying to determine two things – your heart rate and your oxygen saturation.
Your blood is made up of different types of cells, one type being red blood cells. The red blood cells contain this wonderful little protein called hemoglobin which is actually responsible for picking up oxygen and carrying it along in the blood.A single drop of blood contains millions of hemoglobin molecules, and every single hemoglobin molecule has 4 places on it that will bind with oxygen. That is a lot of potential oxygen to be carried by the blood.
The pulse ox is measuring the percentage of the hemoglobin molecules that are carrying a full load of oxygen. In other words, how saturated is your blood with oxygen? If you have a reading on your pulse ox of 98% SpO2, then the device is telling you that 98% of your hemoglobin is carrying oxygen in your body. If you have a reading of 89%, then that percentage of your hemoglobin is carrying oxygen and you may have feelings of tiredness, weakness, or shortness of breath. That would be expected, since only 89% of your hemoglobin is saturated with oxygen. Your body tissues need adequate oxygen, and this is why we try to keep your oxygen saturations above 90% when possible.
There are things that affect the accuracy of the reading.Cold hands, low blood pressure, low iron, dark fingernail polish, and movement can make the reading on the pulse oximeter inaccurate. If you get a low reading, try warming your hands, sit down, or try to get a reading on another finger. If you continue to get a low reading, try to do some pursed lip breathing, and relaxation techniques and see if the numbers come back up to normal levels for you.
If you are anemic, your O2 sats may ‘look’ fine, but in reality, you may still not be getting enough oxygen.In that case, your hemoglobin may be fully loaded with oxygen, it is only that you don’t have as much hemoglobin as you need so there are not many places for the oxygen to attach and move along with the blood.
Pulse oximeters are handy little devices, but don’t become so dependent on what it says that you forget to take your own inventory and see how you are feeling.As I have said before – you are more than what your numbers say. Let them help guide you, but don’t let them dictate how you feel.
Now for the twist - 2 step directions:
- How many words can you make from the word – oxygenate?
- Put your total number of words and type your best word in the comments. (One you think nobody else would think of)