Coronavirus affects the lung cells and also the blood vessels in the lung causing the air sacs in the lung where the blood passing through very thin blood vessels gains oxygen from the inhaled air and loses carbon dioxide to the exhaled air. Patients with coronavirus may have extensive areas of pneumonia due to the collapse of these air sacs and dangerously low blood oxygen levels (hypoxia) without an elevation of blood carbon dioxide levels. This gives rise to what is now being called “Happy Hypoxia” or “Silent Hypoxia” as the patient does not feel any discomfort or difficulty in breathing but still has dangerously low blood oxygen levels and can decompensate frighteningly rapidly.
Oximeter is emerging as the New Thermometer
An Oximeter is a device which passes light through the finger (usually) or an ear lobe and then measures the amount of oxygen in the blood. Some oximeters will also give you your pulse rate.
This simple device has proven to be a life saver for many patients who doubted whether they had Coronavirus or the severity of their illness. Normal Blood Oxygen level is usually above 96%, between 93- 96% is considered suspicious and below 93% a sign of hypoxia. As the pressure increases on hospital beds, doctors are not only treating patients at home
using oximeters to monitor the blood oxygen levels but hospitals are beginning to discharge patients to home care with similar monitoring.
Oximeters can be helpful for triage of patients both at the hospital and at home. Oximetry not only provides a quantitative basis for making decisions it can also be used as a tool to track recovery. It is an investigation which can be conducted by the patient at her own
house by herself as many times a day as required.
Early detection via oximetry can enable the patient to seek care earlier and thus decrease the chance of being put on a ventilator (which can itself leave long lasting consequences) or worse!
Countries with the lowest death rates due to coronavirus like Germany have not only adopted effective contact tracing and testing but also aggressive monitoring of symptoms of patients specially oximetry. The Oximeter is emerging as the New Thermometer– providing an objective measurement of a vital parameter which cannot be accurately assessed subjectively. It can be the difference between life and death.