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Finger Pulse Oximeters  (Pulse Ox)

  • What They Are

  • What They Do

  • Why Have One (Or Not)

What They Are & What They Do:

 Below is a very simplified explanation for a very complex piece of equipment.  If you would like a more technical in-depth explanation visit


There's 2 methods to check the oxygen in your blood:

The first is a test called an "Arterial Blood Gas" or "ABG" for short.  Blood is drawn from an artery (rather than a vein), usually in the wrist and "sometimes" can be painful.  The ABG's measure more than just your oxygen saturation and although very accurate, your blood oxygenation can change quickly so one reading today may not be the same as tomorrow.  

The second way is non-invasive and uses  a small device that is quite often  clipped on the finger. A pulse oximeter. It uses red and infrared light and  measures/ monitors the amount of oxygen being carried in your   blood .  Blood that's well oxygenated is lighter and absorbs more infrared light; poorly oxygenated blood is much darker and absorbs more red light.  The two amounts are read and calculated.  The result is your blood oxygen percentage (SPo2)


Keep in mind there's also a  few things which can effect the readings including;

  • Dark nail polish

  • Acrylic Nails

  • Movement

  • Anemia

  • Cold Temperatures & Cold Hands

  • Smoking

  • Not Leaving the Pulse Ox on long enough for an accurate reading


Why Have One?

Many COPDer's, especially those on oxygen, like to keep a check on their saturation levels.  Some  of us use it when exercising or if we're not feeling up to par or fighting an infection. When used properly it can be very beneficial and  add a bit of a comfort.  It can also be used to let you know if/when it's time to slow down and relax and/or do your pursed lip breathing to help bring your sats back up.  However; If a drop is more prolonged it  can alert you that maybe there's more going on and you should see your Dr.

Incidentally; people with COPD are not the only ones who use a portable Finger Pulse Ox.  Many  others use them in a non medical environment;  including athletes and pilots.


Why "NOT" to Have One:

Sometimes people get too involved and see any deviation in their saturation levels as something to be  concerned.  In other words they read and watch it  too much. Like your blood pressure, it will fluctuate.  That's normal. 

Some of our GP's think it's great, others Don't.  Only you  can decide.















































































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