Validation of Oxygen Saturation Monitoring in Neonates

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Pulse oximetry is commonly used to monitor oxygenation in neonates, but cannot detect variations in hemoglobin. Venous and arterial oxygen saturations are rarely monitored. Few data are available to validate measurements of oxygen saturation in neonates (venous, arterial, or pulse oximetric).


To validate oxygen saturation displayed on clinical monitors against analyses (with correction for fetal hemoglobin) of blood samples from neonates and to present the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve for neonates.


Seventy-eight neonates, 25 to 38 weeks' gestational age, had 660 arterial and 111 venous blood samples collected for analysis.


The mean difference between oxygen saturation and oxyhemoglobin level was 3% (SD 1.0) in arterial blood and 3% (SD 1.1) in venous blood. The mean difference between arterial oxygen saturation displayed on the monitor and oxyhemoglobin in arterial blood samples was 2% (SD 2.0); between venous oxygen saturation displayed on the monitor and oxyhemoglobin in venous blood samples it was 3% (SD 2.1) and between oxygen saturation as determined by pulse oximetry and oxyhemoglobin in arterial blood samples it was 2.5% (SD 3.1). At a Pao2 of 50 to 75 mm Hg on the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve, oxyhemoglobin in arterial blood samples was from 92% to 95%; oxygen saturation was from 95% to 98% in arterial blood samples, from 94% to 97% on the monitor, and from 95% to 97% according to pulse oximetry.


The safety limits for pulse oximeters are higher and narrower in neonates (95%-97%) than in adults, and clinical guidelines for neonates may require modification. (American Journal of Critical Care. 2007;16:168-178)

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