"It's not happening a lot, but if you think of how often these measurements are taken, if it's wrong 12% of the time, I worry that could be really impactful," Sjoding says.
The average oxygen saturation level for healthy individuals is between 95% and 100%, although people with chronic lung conditions may have a reading below 95%. A reading below 90% is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment by a medical professional.
“Be aware that multiple factors can affect the accuracy of a pulse oximeter reading, such as poor circulation, skin pigmentation, skin thickness, skin temperature, current tobacco use, and use of fingernail polish,” the FDA’s alert reads.
That viral New York Times op-ed makes some good points. But the timelines here are way off.
Levy believes that the role of a pulse oximeter during the Covid-19 pandemic is “limited” for most people. Blood oxygen levels are just one of the many vital signs that doctors monitor in patients with Covid-19.
Although a new study showed the devices are more error-prone in people with darker skin, doctors say they are still useful for anyone monitoring Covid-19 at home.
The real role for these pulse oximeters is in identifying those subgroup of patients who unfortunately get the lower respiratory symptoms and develop this sort of second phase of illness.
The device which measures blood oxygenation can be a lifesaver for patients who test positive for coronavirus. If you haven’t been diagnosed with Covid-19, or aren’t suspected to have it, home pulse oximeters “aren’t necessary”, says Shoshana Ungerleider.
The research data on home monitors has been mixed, but they tend to be accurate within a few percentage points.
A new study shows just how lifesaving home monitoring of oxygen levels can be.
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