Pulse oximeters: For consumers

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Pulse oximeter limitations

Different pulse oximeters and their sensors may have different accuracy. Several reports have been published about the accuracy of pulse oximeters.

Some reports indicate that pulse oximeter readings can be less accurate in people with dark skin. This means that for people with dark skin, the pulse oximeter reading may display as normal (for example, 94%) when the individual actually has low blood oxygen saturation (for example, 88%).

Reports have also indicated that pulse oximeter readings may be less accurate as true oxygen saturation decreases.

Reports also indicate other factors may affect the accuracy of pulse oximeters:

What we recommend

If you use a pulse oximeter, especially if you have dark skin, you should not rely on the pulse oximeter reading as the only measure of your oxygenation level. Consider other signs when deciding if you need to seek medical attention, such as if you have:

It’s important to monitor these signs as well as your pulse oximeter readings so you can take action before an adverse event happens.

You should also:

You should contact the manufacturer:

Check that your device is licensed in Canada:

Report a complaint with your pulse oximeters

Report a problem with a medical device

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