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Cerebral Arterial Oxygen Saturation Measurements Using a Fiber-Optic Pulse Oximeter

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A pilot investigation was undertaken to assess the performance of a novel fiber-optic cerebral pulse oximetry system. A fiber-optic probe designed to pass through the lumen of a cranial bolt of the type used to make intracranial pressure measurements was used to obtain optical reflectance signals directly from brain tissue.


Short-duration measurements were made in six patients undergoing neurosurgery. These were followed by a longer duration measurement in a patient recovering from an intracerebral hematoma. Estimations of cerebral arterial oxygen saturation derived from a frequency domain-based algorithm are compared with simultaneous pulse oximetry (SpO2) and hemoximeter (SaO2) blood samples.


The short-duration measurements showed that reliable photoplethysmographic signals could be obtained from the brain tissue. In the long-duration study, the mean (±SD) difference between cerebral oxygen saturation (ScaO2) and finger SpO2 (in saturation units) was −7.47(±3.4)%. The mean (±SD) difference between ScaO2 and blood SaO2 was −7.37(±2.8)%.


This pilot study demonstrated that arterial oxygen saturation may be estimated from brain tissue via a fiber-optic pulse oximeter used in conjunction with a cranial bolt. Further studies are needed to confirm the clinical utility of the technique.

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Correspondence to J. P. Phillips.

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Phillips, J.P., Langford, R.M., Chang, S.H. et al. Cerebral Arterial Oxygen Saturation Measurements Using a Fiber-Optic Pulse Oximeter. Neurocrit Care 13, 278–285 (2010).

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