Ear oximetry during combined hypoxia and exercise
Ear oximetry is widely used to detect arterial O2 desaturation during exercise in patients with cardiopulmonary disease. Although oximeters have been evaluated for accuracy, response time, and the influence of skin pigmentation, tests of their reliability have not been reported during strenuous exercise. Accordingly, we compared arterial O2 saturation (Sao2) measurements obtained by Hewlett-Packard (HP, model 47201A) and Biox II oximeters with those determined directly from arterial blood in six healthy volunteers during progressive exercise while rebreathing hypoxic gas mixtures. The relationship between the HP oximeter value and blood Sao2 was described by the equation: HP = 0.93 (Sao2) + 5.37 and for the Biox II: Biox = 0.55 (Sao2) + 38.97. With these equations, at a blood Sao2 value of 90%, the underestimation by both oximeters was less than 2%. At a blood value of 70%, the HP oximeter overestimated blood Sao2 by 0.7%, whereas the Biox II showed an overestimation of 10.7%. Below blood Sao2 of 83%, the Biox II tended to overestimate blood Sao2 by an amount greater than the error of the instrument, whereas the HP estimations were within the error of the instrument over all levels of blood Sao2 studied. We conclude that the HP oximeter provides valid estimates of Sao2 during exercise but that the Biox II oximeter, although reflecting qualitative changes in oxygenation that occur during exercise, does not provide accurate records of the degree of desaturation.
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