Journal of Clinical Monitoring and Computing

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 305–309

Effect of Peripheral Vasoconstriction on Pulse Oximetry



Objective. We tested the hypothesis that peripheral vasodilation has an effect on arterial oxygen saturation measurements by pulse oximetry, independent of temperature. Methods. Study 1 compared finger arterial oxygen saturation values (SpO2), before and after peripheral vasoconstriction while temperature was kept constant. This was achieved by administering dexmedetomidine (peripheral vasoconstrictor) to 16 volunteers given general anesthesia. Study 2 compared SpO2 before and after peripheral vasodilation (brachial plexus block) in a neurally denervated left hand and a neurally innervated right hand in ten awake volunteers. In both studies measurements were also made of finger blood volume (an indicator of vasoconstriction) by photoplethysmographic determination of light transmission through a finger (LTF), finger temperature and of hemodynamic variables. Results. In Study 1, systolic blood pressure, SpO2 and LTF values increased (vasoconstriction) during dexmedetomidine infusion, (P<0.0001 for all) while there were no changes in finger temperature. In Study 2, in the left hand (axillary block), temperature increased by 1.9 ± 1.6 °C (P=0.004), SpO2 decreased by 2.5 ± 1.0 % (P<0.0001) and LTF values decreased (vasodilation) by 42 ± 8 % (P<0.0001) after axillary block. Simultaneously, the axillary block did not induce any changes in temperature, SpO2 or LTF values in the neurally innervated right hand. Conclusions. Our results demonstrate that finger pulse oximeter SpO2 measurements can be affected by peripheral vascular tone independent of temperature. The mechanism for this effect remains speculative and unproven.


Pulse oximetry oxygen saturation vasoconstriction vasodilation temperature human 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Kim JM, Arakawa K, Benson KT, Fox DK. Pulse oximetry and circulatory kinetics associated with pulse volume amplitude measured by photoelectric plethysmography. Anesth Analg 1986; 65: 1333–1339.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kelleher JF, Ruff RH. The penumbra effect: Vasomotion-dependent pulse oximeter artifact due to probe malposition. Anesthesiology 1989; 71: 787–791.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Sessler Dl, McGuire J, Hynson J, Moayeri A, Heier T. Thermoregulatory vasoconstriction during isoflurane anesthesia minimally decreases cutaneous heat loss. Anesthesiology 1992; 76: 670–675.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hynson JM, Sessler Dl, Belani K, Washington D, McGuire J, Merrifield B, Schroeder M, Moayeri A, Crankshaw D, Hudson S. Thermoregulatory vasoconstriction during propofol/nitrous oxide anesthesia in humans: Threshold and oxyhemoglobin saturation. Anesth Analg 1992; 75: 947–952.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Schramm WM, Bartunek A, Gilly H. Effect of local limb temperature on pulse oximetry and the plethysmographic pulse wave. Int J Clin Monit Comput 1997; 14: 17–22.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Sami HM, Kleinman BS, Lonchyna VA. Central venous pulsations associated with a falsely low oxygen saturation measured by pulse oximetry. J Clin Monit 1991; 7: 309–312.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Nellcor N. 200 Service Manual, Hayward, CA. 1989.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Talke P, Stapelfeldt C, Lobo E, Brown R, Scheinin M, Snapir A. Alpha-2B adrenoceptor polymorphism and peripheral vasoconstriction. Pharmacogenet Genomics 2005; 15: 357–363.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative MedicineUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

Personalised recommendations