Oxygen levels

Why does the patient’s/client’s oxygen levels need to be checked?

We measure patients’/clients’ oxygen levels though the process of pulse oximetry. It’s very important that we do so, because oxygen is vital to life and reduced levels of oxygen circulating in the bloodstream can lead to very serious, even fatal, complications for the heart, lung, brain and other organs. People with severe lung or heart disease, who are unconscious or who have difficulty breathing, or who need oxygen treatment for any reason are at risk of reduced oxygen levels, and consequently are at risk of serious illness.

When should I check it?

Most people who are having their oxygen levels checked through pulse oximetry will do so on a constant basis. This doesn’t mean they will have their levels checked for life – they may be going through a particularly difficult health problem or complicated treatment regime that is compromising their ability to absorb and transport oxygen in the blood, so will need to be monitored only until their normal health and independence returns. The duration of oximetry will be set out in the patient’s/client’s care plan.

What do my findings mean?

We speak about oxygen levels as ‘oxygen saturation’ levels – that is, the level of oxygen that has been absorbed by the blood and is therefore free to be moved to the body tissues to nourish them. ‘Normal’ levels are between 95 percent and 100 percent, although they may vary according to the patient’s/client’s age and general condition. A level of under 90 percent is usually cause for alarm and will need prompt attention. Abnormally high levels may suggest that the person is receiving too much oxygen therapy.

Where should I record and report my findings?

It’s important that the person’s pulse oximetry readings are recorded in your organisation’s recording chart alongside details of the oxygen therapy he or she is receiving, as the impact of the latter will need to be taken into account when considering the person’s overall clinical condition. You should make sure you record your findings clearly and accurately so that they can be readily seen and understood. Always follow your organisation’s policies and procedures on recording and reporting.

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