Pulse Oximeter- Purpose and Uses

The Pulse Oximeter is a lightweight clip-like device that is used to measure the oxygen level in your body. This simple instrument transmits wavelengths of light through your finger to gauge your pulse rate and the amount of oxygen present in your body. It is usually put on your finger, toes or an earlobe. One can typically find this device in a critical care department or the emergency rooms in hospitals. With the emergence of the covid pandemic, people have started using the oximeter at homes as well.

What is the Purpose of Oximeter?

The purpose of oximeter is to gauge the health condition of your heart and how well the oxygen is being transmitted by the heart through your body. It is ideally used to check the amount of oxygen in your blood especially during severe health conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, lung cancer, anemia, heart attack or heart failure etc. The oximeter is also used in various situations such as:

  • Pre-surgery or Post-surgery situations especially in the one that involves sedation.
  • To check the effect of the medicines on your lung.
  • To measure the activity level of a person
  • To decide if a ventilator is required for the patient during severe conditions.
  • To check the sleep apnea or the breath intervals during the sleep.

How to use the Oximeter?

The pulse oximeter can be used in both inpatient and outpatient cases. It is also advisable to have aoximeter in your house specially if there are any old aged members in your house. The process below will let you know how to successfully use the oximeter:

  1. First the oximeter, which is a clip like device will be placed on your finger, earlobe or toe. You may feel a light pressure, but no pain, irritation or itching. In certain cases a small probe may be placed on your finger or forehead with a sticky adhesive. Ensure not to have any kind of nail polish if the oximeter is being attached to your finger.
  2. The probe should be kept for as long as you need to monitor your pulse and oxygen saturation. In case of any surgery the probe will be attached beforehand and will be removed once you become conscious.
  3. You can remove the probe after the test is completed.

How do you read an Oximeter?

The accuracy degree of a pulse oximeter completely depends on the quality of the device, which is usually found in hospitals and medical offices. The results vary within 2% of the actual value. For example if your oximeter reads 84% then the actual result would be somewhere between 82 and 85%. The accuracy can be affected by movement, temperature or the nail polish on your nails.

Ideally the oxygen level in your blood should be more than 89% as this measure of oxygen will keep your cells and your entire system healthy and active. The normal saturation level of oxygen of a human body is 95%.

After the test your healthcare provider will give you the readings immediately which will eventually determine if any other form of treatment or testing is required.

What are the risks of using an Oximeter?

The risks involved in using an oximeter are very minimal; however you need to be aware and clear about few things like:

  • Incorrect reading if the probe falls of the finger, earlobe or toe.
  • Breakout of skin rashes or irritation on using the adhesive on the probe.

How do you check if the Oximeter is original and of good quality?

You can conduct a 2 types of simple test to check if the oximeter that you purchased is original or not. For that:

Oximeter- First Test

  • Insert you finger inside and switch on the oximeter.
  • If the reading panel displays the graph of the rising and falling pulse below the Oxygen level reading that is displayed as SPO2, then this indicates that the instrument is genuine and original.
  • If the oximeter only displays the oxygen level reading without any graph of pulse below, then the product you purchased is fake.

Oximeter- Second Test

  • Insert your finger into the gadget and take the reading
  • With the finger still inside, tie a thread at the base of your index finger a little tightly, so that the blood flow to your finger is slightly obstructed and is slowed down.
  • After this action, if the reading on the oximeter becomes less, then the product is genuine. Otherwise it is a fake one.

Things to keep in mind while using an Oximeter


  • The oximeter takes time to stabilize. So you may have to take a minimum of 3 readings to get the accurate recordings.
  • There are chances that in the first reading you may not get the pulse graph below with the reading. However in the 2nd and 3rd reading you may get the pulse graph below. This is why you are advised to record the first three readings.

Things to consider before purchasing a pulse Oximeter

Please check and purchase the product only if the following criteria’s convince you:

  • The price range of the oximeters varies between Rs 1000 and Rs 5000.Whatever the price range, you should confirm the proper functioning of the device.
  • Please double check the accuracy of the results even if you are buying the oximeter for home purposes.
  • With regards to the features of the device, please check the durability of the material used for the oximeter and it exhibits a clear display.
  • You can also check for the quality standards and certifications stamped on the oximeter by certain organizations and these are FDA, RoHS and CE.
  • Check the alarm or the buzzer option in the oximeter.
  • Check if the oximeter is water resistant or not
  • Last but not the least take time to check the reviews of the device in the market and conduct a small research before purchasing the product.

Different Types of Oximeter

There are basically three types of pulse oximeter which are made for different types of usages:

  • Fingertip pulse oximeter which is used for domestic and clinical purposes.
  • Handheld oximeter which are primarily seen in hospitals and clinics.
  • Fetal pulse oximeter are used mainly in hospitals.

Stay safe and stay healthy!

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