Pulse Oximetry Overnight Gives Help in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Sleep Apnea

Does you partner complain about their sleepless nights due to your continuously struggling to breathe during the night? Are you both waking up tired and grumpy in the morning because of it?

If you are one of those unfortunate people who periodically stops breathing while you are sleeping you may be suffering from sleep apnea. This can happen up to 90 times a night. The main effects of sleep apnea are sleep deprivation and oxygen deprivation. The oxygen deprivation can lead to a host of problems such as heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, depression and rapid weight gain.

An economical means of detecting sleep apnea is to use a pulse oximeter. A pulse oximeter is a photoelectric monitoring device that measures the oxygen saturation in a person’s blood by registering pulsations within an articular bed, and detecting the percentage of hemoglobin (Hb) that is saturated with oxygen.

This unit is in the form of a portable pulse oximeter that consists of a light emitting diode. A photo detector probe is attached to the patient’s finger or ear lobe which is linked to a computerized unit. The unit displays the percentage of Hb saturated with oxygen together with an audible signal for each pulse beat, a calculated heart rate, and a graphical display of blood flow past the probe.

A pulse oximeter works by using an external probe to bounce red and infrared light off the capillary bed underlying the probe. The source of light originates from the probe at two wavelengths. The light is partly absorbed by Hb, by amounts which differ depending on whether it is saturated or desaturated with oxygen. By calculating the absorption at the two wavelengths, the processor can compute the proportion of hemoglobin which is oxygenated. The pulse oximeter is dependent on a pulsatile flow and produces a graph of the quality of flow.

Pulse oximeters may be used in a variety of situations but are of particular value for monitoring oxygenation and pulse rates. There are several different styles of pulse oximeters, from table top models used in the hospitals, to handheld units and portable finger pulse oximeters. The handheld pulse oximeter uses a probe, which is placed in the person’s earlobe or finger and is attached to the unit with a cord. Its method of use means that It is more appropriate to use in a clinical setting rather than in the home.

A finger pulse oximeter, on the other hand, is very compact. The unit itself is placed on the fingertip and it shines two beams of light through the fingertip to sort out the color of the blood and determine the oxygen saturation level and pulse rate. The portability of the finger pulse oximeters makes them a very popular choice for home use and for medical professionals who are always “on the go”.

Using a pulse oximeter to help detect sleep apnea is a non-intrusive, painless and inexpensive procedure.

Copyright (c) 2007 Mike Jennings