What Is a Pulse Oximeter? Common Types and Reasons of Regular Use

what is a pulse oximeter

What is a pulse oximeter? This is a non-invasive device that is commonly used both by specialists and non-professionals for measuring the blood-oxygen saturation level as well as pulse rate in patients. Oximeters and their sensors ensure the proven accuracy of results in a pretty wide range of patients, regardless of sex and age. However, these aren’t the only reasons why the devices are so popular. To additional benefits also belong:

  • compact size
  • non-invasiveness
  • the ability to detect hypoxemia earlier than when using eyes to see cyanosis
  • affordability

A comparatively small probe is attached to a computerized unit. It is clipped to the spot on one’s body that is characterized by a good blood flow (usually the earlobe or finger). There is a light emitter insides the probe. It sends out two streams of light – infrared and red. Opposite this emitter there’s a photodetector that receives the streams and measures them as they pass through.

How does the device work? The absorption of the light of the systolic component of the absorption waveform compare with arterial blood oxygen saturations. The measurements of the light absorption are made many times. They all are processed in order to give the reading every second and get the average reading over the last 3 seconds.

When a person is healthy, the indicators never fall below 95% oxygen saturation. Pulse oximeters detect even the smallest changes, which can’t be done by a person (the very first sign is the skin ‘turning blue’, when the oxygen saturation equals 85%).


Nonin Pulse Oximeter

Nonin Medical introduced its first pulse oximeter in 1995. It was Onyx® 9500. At that time it was the most trusted device in this medical field. As for today, it is the only brand that has proven its efficiency over the years even in the most challenging cases, when other devices failed. This applies to patients with dark skin tones and low perfusion.

nonin pulse oximeter

Brand’s fingertip oximeter is now recognized as a global leader in cases that have something to do with developing noninvasive medical monitoring solutions, which can improve the quality of people’s lives. In addition, Nonin Medical offers reliable cerebral and pulse oximeters, sensors, vet solutions, capnographs and OEM that meet the latest requirements.


Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

What is a pulse oximeter of this type for? It is widely used by patients, clinicians, consumers and caregivers all over the world for homecare, wellness, clinics and hospitals. Patients with various breathing disorders, namely chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, can easily monitor blood-oxygen levels to save their lives.

Fingertip pulse oximeters offer a non-invasive and safe way of monitoring. Such devices are exceptional for sport and recreational purposes like high-altitude activities and running. They all are convenient, affordable, easy to use and FDA-approved.


Pediatric Pulse Oximeter

This device reminds regular pulse oximeters. The only possible exception is the fact it is designed to fit really small fingers. It features a smaller opening so that the sensors are easily attached to the children’s fingers. Some devices also have Y-sensor probes that wrap the sensor around the toe or palm of the patient. Of course, for young children a pediatric pulse oximeter is more preferable than a finger pulse one. For a handheld device only a sensor is attached, minimizing the issues that can be caused by the movement of the patient. Besides, as there are different types of probes, it is possible to grasp onto the patient much better.

Handheld oximeters are also beneficial due to the fact they allow using different sensors, depending on the size of the patient. With the appropriate sensor they can also take readings from the forehead and ear. Foreheads and ears can be freely used as locations for taking a reading. However, it is not recommended for those, who are less than 50 lbs.

pediatric pulse oximeter


Neonatal Pulse Oximeter

Using a pulse oximeter to screen a newborn helps to identify the infants with critical congenital heart defects. A special neonatal pulse oximeter is a very simple handheld device. Some models even have a Y-sensor probe.

To monitor the baby regularly the checking should be performed under the supervision of an adult. A very important fact to remember is that taking a probe is not a toy, and the baby cannot be allowed to tangle up with a cable. This applies to those cases, when the baby can pull things or can move the body around.

Just attach the probe to the feet, run the cable to the end of the baby’s bed away from the body. Keep the cable out of the view and secure it, so that the baby cannot grab it and pull. A popular way of securing the cable is covering it with a bed sheet, leaving several inches out in order to attach the probe to the body. Then you can tuck the ends of the bed sheets tightly and firmly under the mattress.

Keep in mind that screening shouldn’t be initiated until 24 hours after birth. Why not? The matter is that earlier screening leads to false positives, which happens due to the stabilization of systemic oxygen saturation levels and transition from fetal to neonatal circulation.

Now you know what a pulse oximeter is and what it is used for. Choose the type that suits your needs best. Perform regular checking and control the pulse rate and blood-oxygen saturation level to stay healthy.


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