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Why Bother to Test Sensors?

The purpose of testing sensors is to protect patients from getting inappropriate management. When patients get inappropriate management it can impact on morbidity and mortality.

Increasingly clinical protocols and guidelines use blood oxygen saturation (SATs as measured with a pulse oximeter) to base decisions on, eg if arterial blood gas needs checking.

In an ideal world, one would expect always to be able to go into a hospital and find that sensors of the same type, that when all tested on the same person, would all read the same. In practice this does not always happen. Particularly at patient low blood oxygen saturations (SATs), some pulse oximeter sensors will be found to read higher whilst others read lower. The operator can then be in the position of not knowing which sensor to believe. Clinical decisions could then be made on faulty data.