Pulse Oximetry

What Is Pulse Oximetry?

Pulse oximetry is a test that estimates how much oxygen is in your blood. This test -- along with other medical tests and observations -- will help your provider understand how well your blood is moving oxygen throughout your body. This test can also be used to determine if certain treatments are working.


Test results may change from moment to moment. However, readings taken over time -- rather than individual readings -- are most helpful to providers.


What Can Affect the Test Results?

The test results can sometimes be affected by:

  • The temperature, color or thickness of the skin 
  • Poor circulation
  • Artificial fingernails or fingernail polish
  • Tobacco use

I Have Dark Skin. Can I Trust My Test Result?

Scientific studies have suggested that pulse oximetry devices may be less reliable in patients with darker skin pigmentation. At SHCS, we researched pulse oximeters to select devices that are highly reliable for all skin tones. The results of a pulse oximetry test are taken into consideration by your medical provider along with other tests and observations to guide their decisions about your healthcare.


If you have any questions, please talk to your medical provider during your visit.