Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 30, Issue 11, pp 2017–2020 | Cite as

Pulse oximetry

  • Amal Jubran
Physiological Note


Continuous monitoring of arterial blood saturation using pulse oximetry has become the standard of care in the ICU. With the proliferation of pulse oximeters, episodic hypoxemia is detected much more commonly than previously suspected. By alerting the clinician to the presence of hypoxemia, pulse oximeters can lead to a more rapid treatment of serious hypoxemia and possibly avoid serious complication. Moreover, pulse oximetry can reduce arterial blood gas analysis and potentially decrease health care costs [1].

Principles of pulse oximetry

Pulse oximeters determine oxygen (O 2) saturation by measuring light absorption of arterial blood at two specific wavelengths, 660 nm (red) and 940 nm (infrared) [ 2]. The ratio of absorbencies at the wavelengths is then calibrated empirically against direct measurements of arterial blood oxygen saturation (SaO 2), and the resulting calibration curve is used to generate the pulse oximeter’s estimate of arterial saturation (SpO 2). In...


Pulse Oximetry Pulse Oximeter Severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Oxyhemoglobin Dissociation Curve Plethysmographic Waveform 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care MedicineEdward Hines Jr. Veterans Affairs HospitalHinesUSA

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