Clinical Information

The Electrode Company

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The Electrode Company

Oxygen Therapy and Patient Safety

  • Inaccurate pulse oximeter sensors can result in patients getting the wrong treatment.
  • These sensors can be identified by The Lightman.
  • Quality Improvement - Removing inaccurate sensors from use improves patient safety.
  • Accurate sensors reduce costs.

High reading pulse oximetry sensors

Patent These can result in insufficient oxygen therapy and inappropriate management e.g.
  • delay in giving oxygen,
  • delay in more active management (e.g. intubation, admission to ITU),
  • hypoxic tissue damage,
  • post operation confusion,
  • brain damage (e.g. cerebral palsy, strokes),
  • death.

Low reading pulse oximetry sensors

These can result in excessive oxygen therapy and inappropriate management e.g.
  • unnecessary clinical tests,
  • unnecessary and possibly harmful interventions (e.g. intubation),
  • unnecessary admission to ICU,
  • retinopathy of prematurity (eye damage/blindness),
  • lung tissue damage,
  • metabolic disturbances (especially in Chronic Chest Patients leading to admission to ICU),
  • Increased morbidity after strokes and heart attacks.


  • The accuracy of a pulse oximeter system is very dependant on the match between the spectral properties of the sensor and the reference data in the monitor.
  • Spectral errors in the sensor can lead to incorrect high and low SATs readings.
    • High readings can lead to oxygen therapy being deferred or not being given at all.
    • Low readings can lead to excessive oxygen therapy being given.
  • Sensors should be tested for accuracy.
  • Sensors with local bias greater than +/- 3% should not be used.
  • Sensor accuracy can not be determined by
    • testing on a human finger,
    • testing with a circuit tester or functional tester.
    • testing with a simulator.
  • Sensor accuracy can only be checked with test equipment with sufficient optical resolution to determine the accuracy of the sensor - ISO 9919.
  • Inaccurate sensors should be identified and removed from use.