Wanted: An Oxygen Monitor Reliable for All Races
Medical device makers and scientists are working on new technologies to improve widely-used devices that assess potential heart and respiratory problems given mounting evidence that current ones could lead to inadequate healthcare for patients with darker skin.
Doctors have long known that pulse oximeters are less accurate in estimating blood oxygen levels in non-white patients, but the discrepancies were considered insignificant. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed some of the real dangers of these flaws, as the devices gave falsely high oxygen readings in patients with dark skin.
@sulagna As a result, some patients faced COVID treatment delays or were denied treatment, and some were discharged from emergency rooms instead of receiving care, researchers found, adding to the litany of healthcare disparities experienced by non-white populations.
Expert advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration met virtually on Tuesday to discuss improvements in standards for pulse oximeters.
The devices, which clip to a fingertip, pass red and infrared light through the skin and measure how much light is absorbed by oxygen-carrying hemoglobin. Melanin pigment in darker skin also absorbs the light, however, and current devices do not adjust for that effect.