Apart From Oxygen, A Pulse Oximeter Can Help Detect Underlying Cardiac Defects In Kids. Know From This Expert

Updated at: Oct 19, 2020
Apart From Oxygen, A Pulse Oximeter Can Help Detect Underlying Cardiac Defects In Kids. Know From This Expert

A pulse oximeter is one of the essential medical apparatus needed to be kept in homes during these times as it is critical to check on the oxygen

Vani Malik
Children's HealthWritten by: Vani MalikPublished at: Oct 19, 2020

Most people today are aware that Coronavirus affects the Lungs and the breathing of the patient. Infected Lungs cause Oxygen levels in the body to dip; the finger Pulse Oximeter picks this dip. Unaware of what a Pulse Oximeter can do and looks like? A pulse oximeter is a small portable device that clips over a finger and uses infrared light to detect Oxygen levels of the blood in the finger. A number below 95% is low; such a patient needs to be seen by a doctor, and treatment needs to be initiated. Apart from Coronavirus infection, many other diseases can cause low oxygen levels. Pneumonia, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or diseases of the Lungs could cause the Oxygen levels to drop. Many patients in the ICU have low Oxygen levels.

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Also Read: What Is Pulse Oximetry and How To Use A Pulse Oximeter To Measure Blood Oxygen Levels

The Many Uses Of A Pulse Oximeter

But did you know that there is one more organ system involved in keep the Pulse Oximeter readings normal? That is the heart. Many heart defects in babies let the Blue (impure) and Red (pure) blood mix abnormally, or prevent enough blood from reaching the Lungs. So even if the Lungs are healthy, the Pulse Oximeter shows low levels. The levels can become dangerously low soon after birth if the baby born with a certain cardiac condition. If the baby is turning Blue (which is difficult to identify in most Indian babies), the medical team can investigate and find out the problem -  whether it is the Lungs or the Heart that is unhealthy.

However, the problem arises when the baby doesn’t turn Blue while in the hospital (after birth). Instead, the baby may slowly turn Blue at home, over the next 3-4 days and may become critically sick till parents notice something is wrong and rush the baby to a hospital.

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Pulse Oximeter To Check Heart Defects In Kids

Talking about the use of pulse oximeter to check the heart defects in kids, Dr Swati Garekar, Consultant-Pediatric Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Mulund explains, “A simple Pulse Oximeter check performed on every baby, whether or not the baby appears blue before it goes home after birth, can pick up hidden low Oxygen levels. This testing at the time of the baby’s discharge is called “Pulse Oximetry Screening of newborns (there should be no apostrophe here)”. It is the protocol in many countries across the world and scattered hospitals across India. Once a low oxygen level is detected in the baby, the baby can be monitored closely Ultrasound of the Heart is done to check if indeed there is an abnormality in the heart.”

Why Is A Pulse Oximeter Important?

Thus, a Pulse Oximetry screening is advantageous because a baby with a Heart defect gets diagnosed and treated sooner. It is important to note that the Pulse Oximeter Test cannot pick up other Heart defects of new-borns where the Oxygen levels do not dip. Common examples are Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) / Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), i.e. holes in the heart, or valve narrowing.

Essential Medical Equipment To Be Kept At Home: 

Also Read: Make Your Own COVID-19 Care Medical Kit Which Is A Basic Requirement At Home In The Current Situation

The government’s ‘Ek Boond Zindagi Ki’ Polio campaign was a huge success. It is now time to adopt another one, for the baby’s heart, “Ek Light Zindagi Ki”. Ask your doctor for a Pulse Oximetry check on your new-born before being discharged.

With inputs from Dr Swati Garekar, Consultant-Pediatric Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Mulund

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