What is the accuracy of pulse oximetry?

Updated: May 14, 2020
  • Author: Kevin McCarthy, RPFT; Chief Editor: Nader Kamangar, MD, FACP, FCCP, FCCM  more...
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Answer

Answer

While the accuracy of pulse oximetry generally is good in population studies (SaO2 – SpO2<2%), SpO2 values in individual patients may show a much greater bias, even when dysfunctional Hb levels are normal. Anemia and polycythemia can cause greater oximeter overestimation. SaO2 from simultaneously obtained ABG determinations should be used to characterize oximeter bias in individual patients, although this is not commonly performed.


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