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How to Choose a Pulse Oximeter

Patient Monitoring  |   · 4 years ago by  Jonathan Payne

A finger pulse oximeter is a small, hand-held medical device used to measure both the oxygen saturation of a patient's blood as well a patient's heart rate. It attaches to the end of your index finger with a plastic clip, and calculates how much oxygen is carried in your blood. These calculations are based on measuring the difference between levels of the red pigment hemoglobin which carries oxygen in your blood. It turns out that oxygenated hemoglobin ("oxyhemoglobin") and nonoxygenated hemoglobin ("deoxyhemoglobin") in your blood are different colors. How appropriate, right? That thing on your finger has two light-emitting diodes - one that sends out invisible infrared light and one that sends out red light. The pulse oximeter measures the saturation of the blood in relation to normal levels, which are considered to be from 95 to 100% saturation.

There are a few important things that you should consider when you are looking to purchase a pulse oximeter. 

  1. Be sure to select the appropriate type of pulse oximeter in order to fit your specific needs. There are several different styles of pulse oximeters that can range from less than a hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars. Pulse oximeters range in capabilities and features as well. These capabilities/features include: perfusion index, plethysmograph, or color display (may not be available on all models). Remember that a higher price doesn't necessarily always equal higher quality. Ultimately, it is imperative that you choose a device that will give you accurate, reliable oxygen saturation readings and pulse rates.
  2. When purchasing the pulse oximeter, you will want an expert at the place that sells it to you to explain in-depth the way you use the machine. This is so when you get it back to your facility, you will be able to utilize it properly and get the most out of it.
  3. Test the pulse oximeter. Compare the results against someone who can manually take your pulse and oxygen saturation measurements. This way you can compare readings, and be sure that you choose the device that is the most accurate.
  4. Make sure that it is possible to return the pulse oximeter for a full refund if you are not happy with the results. This way you can test it out to see how accurate it is, and know that you are not wasting money if the oximeter is inaccurate.
  5. Verify the accuracy of the pulse oximeter by having your pulse and oxygen saturation measurements taken simultaneously by another accurate device. This way you can compare readings, and be sure that you choose a device that is the most accurate.


  • Read the online reviews written by others who have tried and tested any particular pulse oximeter.
  • Make sure it is FDA approved.
  • If you are going to buy online, find out which web sites offer the best warranties as well as the best reputation for providing affordable prices, quick shipping and excellent customer service.


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