Everyone’s oxygen saturation fluctuates, especially when changing activities throughout the day. To determine your normal oxygen range, simply check your oxygen saturation 4 times a day for 5 days using your personal Nonin GO2 brand fingertip oximeter. Record each measurement in the activity log and be sure to also record what you were doing prior to checking.
Oxygen saturation measures how much oxygen the blood is carrying compared with its full capacity.
- An SpO2 of greater than 95% is generally considered to be normal.
- An SpO2 of 92% or less (at sea level) suggests hypoxemia.
In a patient with acute respiratory illness (e.g., influenza) or breathing difficulty (e.g, an asthma attack), an SpO2 of 92% or less may indicate a need for oxygen supplementation.
In a patient with stable chronic disease (e.g., COPD), an SpO2 of 92% or less should prompt referral for further investigation of the need for long-term oxygen therapy .5,6
Pulse oximetry can be a useful aid in decision-making, but is not a substitute for a clinical assessment nor sufficient for diagnosis by itself. Arterial blood gas measurements, obtained by arterial puncture, remain the gold standard for measurement of oxygen saturation.
5. Roberts CM, et al. 1998. Screening patients in general practice with COPD for long term domiciliary oxygen requirement using pulse oximetry. Resp Med 92:1265-1268.
6. IPAG guideline. Available from www.thepcrj.org/journ/vol15/15_1_48_57.pdf