It’s high time to update pulse oximeters, Elizabeth Tracey reports


Pulse oximeters are devices used to measure how much oxygen is in someone’s blood, and they are critical in settings like ICUs. Yet research shows that in people of darker skin tones they can be wildly inaccurate. Ashraf Fawry, a critical care medicine expert at Johns Hopkins, says these devices are sadly in need of an update.

Fawzy: Think about every other technology we've had. I'm sure you don't use anything that was created in the 70s and hasn't been updated. We need a technological fix here. The way that we use pulse oximeters is not going to change, we need these devices in the clinic, we need them in the hospital, we need them to tell us how patients are doing second to second, but we need them to be more accurate. The way that they work hasn't changed in five decades essentially.  :30

Fawzy says his own experience with patients in the ICU has shown that harm is possible if oxygen levels aren’t in range, and pulse oximeters are needed for this purpose. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.