From oxygen content to pulse oximetry: completing the picture in the newborn.Acta Anaesthesiol Scand Suppl. 1995; 107:95-100.AA
In recent years clinicians caring for sick preterm infants have come to depend on pulse oximetry to avoid hyperoxia, which means assuming saturation values for critical levels of oxygen tension. This prediction is made difficult by the shape of the haemoglobin-oxygen dissociation curve at critical values for arterial pO2 and by the effects of changes in acid-base balance on p50. Combined blood gas and co-oximetry measurements can be used to determine critical limits for pulse oximetry. Fetal haemoglobin has slightly different light absorption characteristics from adult haemoglobin. To adjust for this, adult and fetal matrices are available in the OSM 3 HEMOXIMETER (Radiometer Medical A/S, Denmark) but the measurement requires an extra preliminary step to estimate fetal haemoglobin concentration. We sought to determine the importance of this extra procedure for measuring the saturation of newborn blood, and to determine whether the adult or fetal mode should be used for determining saturation for comparison with pulse oximeters. We measured the effect of the correction for fetal haemoglobin by obtaining absorbances from the co-oximeter and multiplying them by the adult and fetal matrices. We demonstrated that, at 90% saturation, failure to use the fetal correction in the presence of high levels of fetal haemoglobin result in a 4% overestimate of saturation, with resultant underestimation of the safe range for pulse oximetry. Published values for extinction coefficients for fetal and adult blood at wavelengths used by pulse oximeters are inconsistent, but it appears that fetal haemoglobin does not bias pulse oximetry readings. Determining saturation limits by co-oximetry for use with pulse oximeters in preterm infants requires the description of the haemoglobin-oxygen dissociation curve with the correction for fetal haemoglobin.