The overnight pulse oximetry is a tool used to establish patient’s night time arterial oxygen saturation and heart rate. It is a useful tool for establishing the need for either oxygen therapy for a patient or the further need for a sleep study on the patient. Any patients that are suspected of having any number of breathing disorders should be screened using an overnight pulse oximeter. Some patients that may benefit from an overnight pulse oximeter would be patients with any form of COPD, smoking history, chronic bronchitis, and asbestosis, patients with past histories of pneumonia or asthma. These patients should be screened for regularly by their primary care providers.
An additional way to screen for an overnight pulse oximetry candidate is by running simple pulmonary function tests with simple spirometry in offices. The pulse oximeter is the first test used to identify or diagnose possible sleep apnea. Generally if a patients results have a saw tooth pattern in the pulse oximetry curve that is a sign of obstructive apneas. Typically if a patient has more of hypopnea issue, meaning a partial obstruction of the breathing, there will be a more regular up and down wave form when compared to the apnea saw tooth pattern. If either of these conditions are witnessed the patient should be referred for either and in-home sleep study or an in-lab study to properly diagnose and treat a patient with an overnight sleep disorder.
It is very important that providers keep the overnight pulse oximeter in the front of the minds; it is a simple, effective and invasive free option to help provide better care for their patients. The pulse oximeter is obviously effective in diagnosing patients oxygen needs as well. If a patient has desaturation below 89 percent for more than five minutes, there could possibly be a need for oxygen therapy for that patient. The treatment and diagnosis for both sleep apnea and hypoxemia issues is of great importance. Both issues can have detrimental and possibly fatal outcomes for patients.