Pulse oximetry is a test used to measure the oxygen level (oxygen saturation) of the blood. It is an easy, painless measure of how well oxygen is being sent to parts of your body furthest from your heart, such as the arms and legs.
A clip-like device called a probe is placed on a body part, such as a finger or ear lobe. The probe uses light to measure how much oxygen is in the blood. This information helps the healthcare provider decide if a person needs extra oxygen.
Pulse oximetry may be used to see if there is enough oxygen in the blood. This information is needed in many kinds of situations. It may be used:
Pulse oximetry is also used to check the health of a person with any condition that affects blood oxygen levels, such as:
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to advise pulse oximetry.
All procedures have some risks. The risks of this procedure may include:
Your risks may vary depending on your general health and other factors. Ask your healthcare provider which risks apply most to you. Talk with him or her about any concerns you have.
Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you. Make sure to ask any questions you have about the procedure. If a finger probe is to be used, you may be asked to remove fingernail polish.
Your healthcare provider may have other instructions for getting ready.
You may have your procedure as an outpatient. This means you go home the same day. Or it may be done as part of a longer stay in the hospital. The way the procedure is done may vary. It depends on your condition and your healthcare provider's methods. In most cases, pulse oximetry will follow this process:
You can go home after the test, unless you are in the hospital for another reason. You may go back to your normal diet and activities as instructed by your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions after the procedure.