What is Oxygen Pulse?

Respiratory system conditions can negatively influence oxygen saturation in the blood.
Oxygen pulse is usually measured with an oximeter.
Oxygen pulse levels may be deflated by traveling to a high-altitude location.
Supplemental oxygen may be used if a patient struggles to maintain adequate pulse oximetry levels.
Hemoglobin transports oxygen in red blood cells.
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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2015
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Oxygen is perhaps the most crucial element in building and sustaining animal life on earth, as it provides nourishment to body tissues and allows them to function properly. A healthy human should have around a 90 to 100 percent oxygen intake level, according to many experts. Oxygen pulse refers to oxygen amounts found in the blood, and is often measured with a device known as an oximeter. Measurement of this vital statistic can help establish an individual's physical health.

The amount of oxygen in the blood is important because blood is the major distributor of oxygen throughout the body. A protein substance in red blood cells known as hemoglobin collects oxygen from an organism's respiratory organs. It then releases the oxygen to various cells within the body as the blood is pumped. Due to their prominence in oxygen transport, hemoglobin levels are an important factor in oxygen pulse measurement.

Oxygen pulse measurements can be made by using sensors that target artery vessels that carry blood. The heart contracts and dilates arterial vessels as it beats, which is why a pulse oxygen sensor will measure pulse rate as well as oxygen levels. Pulse oxygen sensor devices uses light rays to take measurements. The amount of light that the oxygen reflects can assist in determining the amount of oxygen particles in the hemoglobin.


A pulse oxygen meter — or pulse oximeter — measures the blood oxygen level of an individual. One end of the device attaches to the patient's finger and the other end attaches to a medical monitor, where readings can be viewed. Individuals can also monitor their statistics at home by purchasing a portable oximeter.

Abnormal oxygen pulse levels can signal many problems. A patient recovering from any major ailment will typically have blood oxygen monitored, as a low reading can indicate any number of complications. Cardiac or respiratory system conditions in particular can negatively influence oxygen saturation in the blood, leading to symptoms like fatigue, mental impairment, and difficulty breathing. Individuals in critical environments, like divers or pilots, can also benefit from efficient oxygen pulse readings. If a blood oxygen impairment is discovered, assisted breathing apparatuses may be needed.

Certain conditions may misrepresent an oxygen pulse reading, however. For example, a disorder called anemia reduces overall red blood cell amounts and may therefore cause a normal oxygen pulse reading when in fact the levels are low. In contrast, high altitudes can deflate oxygen pulse levels, but not in a harmful manner. Some individuals even have a lower-than-average oxygen pulse as their norm.


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