Last updated: August 9, 2021

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Would you like to monitor your oxygen saturation permanently, but need more information about the oxygen meter? The oxygen meter reliably measures the oxygen saturation in your blood.

In our large oxygen meter test 2021 we want to give you an overview of the topic. We will show you the different types of pulse oximeters and explain what you should look for when buying an oxygen meter. We have also put together the most important questions and answers on the subject.




Summary

  • You can keep an eye on your oxygen saturation with the help of a pulse oximeter. Especially if you have a heart condition or are an extreme athlete, this is a relatively reliable option.
  • Normally, your oxygen saturation value should be between 97 and 99 percent. Anything lower than this should be checked by a doctor as a matter of urgency.
  • Using a pulse oximeter is a simple and non-invasive way to measure the oxygen saturation of your blood. The most common method is the finger pulse oximeter.

The Best Oxygen Meter: Our Choices

Buying and evaluation criteria for oxygen meters

Buying an oxygen meter can be quite difficult. To make your decision easier, we have compiled the most important buying and evaluation criteria.

When buying an oxygen meter, you should pay attention to various aspects, such as:

The individual criteria are explained in more detail below.

Measuring range of oxygen saturation

An important purchase criterion is the measurement range of the oxygen saturation. Most oxygen devices measure the saturation range between 70 and 100 percent.

If you have a condition where the oxygen saturation is lower, you should get a special oxygen meter. You should also get a special device for measuring oxygen saturation in children. It is best to ask your doctor for advice.

Measuring pulse and heart rate

Most pulse oximeters not only measure the oxygen saturation in your blood, but also your pulse and heart rate. Checking these values can be important for your health.

Therefore, it is often advisable to buy a device that also measures pulse and heart rate.

Display type

The type of display can also be a decisive criterion when buying a pulse oximeter.

Here you can choose between LED or OLED screens. LED are the inorganic and OLED the inorganic light emitting diodes. OLED screens show the colours in greater contrast, but they also consume more energy.

The advantage of an LED screen is the long durability and the large display, which is particularly suitable for the visually impaired.

Often you can also choose between displaying numbers, bars or wave diagrams.

However, all these choices depend on your individual wishes. You decide which device you feel most comfortable with.

Power supply

The type of power supply is a crucial factor when buying an oxygen meter. There are three different types of power supply:

  • Batteries
  • Rechargeable battery
  • direct power supply through a cable

So the pulse oximeter can either be powered by batteries, have a rechargeable battery or be connected directly to the power supply with a cable.

For flexible use, especially when travelling, the use of batteries or a rechargeable battery is recommended.

One advantage of using batteries as opposed to a rechargeable battery is that they only need to be replaced when used up, whereas a rechargeable battery needs to be charged.

Alarm function

An alarm function is very practical for regular use of an oxygen meter.

Some pulse oximeters have an alarm function. It will sound when the oxygen level falls below the limit you have set yourself. For example, you should select a limit value of 96 percent for normal oxygen saturation.

As soon as the value falls below this limit, the alarm sounds and reminds you to consult your doctor.

If you want to be reminded when your value goes into the critical range during regular checks, this alarm function is recommended.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about oxygen meters answered in detail

In order to inform you in detail about oxygen meters, to give you an understanding of the current state of science and to provide you with all the important information, the most important aspects of the topic are summarised in the following sections.

What is an oxygen meter and how is it used?

An oxygen meter measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. In most cases, it is connected to your finger and the saturation value is determined.

For the measurement, the state of the discolouration of the red blood cells (haemoglobin) is examined. Saturated blood appears light red, while unsaturated blood appears dark red to blue. (2, 3)

The saturation value should normally be between 97 and 100 percent. (4)

The pulse oximeter has a light source that emits red light and uses a photodetector to measure the light content that comes out the other side.(2)

The measured values are then used to determine how saturated the blood is. This saturation value is displayed as a percentage.

Sauerstoffmessgerät

Oxygen meters are small and practical for regularly checking the oxygen saturation in the blood. (Image source: Yastremska / 123rf)

The device shows you the so-called Spo2 value. The "S" stands for saturation and o2 represents oxygen. Since the whole thing is displayed as a percentage value, the "P" stands for percent.

When and for whom is it useful to use an oxygen meter?

Pulse oximeters are mainly used in the clinical field, for all examinations in which the patient's breathing and consciousness are influenced by medication. (5)

For example, the pulse oximeter is used for every anaesthetic.

However, there are also two large groups who are advised to monitor their oxygen saturation level in everyday life. These include patients with cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases on the one hand, and extreme athletes on the other.

The reasons for this are explained in the following paragraphs.

Monitoring oxygen saturation levels in cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases

If you have a cardiovascular or pulmonary disease, it is advisable to monitor your health regularly. (6)

A lower oxygen saturation level is an alarm sign that should not be ignored, especially in high-risk patients. For this reason, it is recommended that high-risk patients regularly check their blood oxygen saturation level. This allows them to regularly check if the values are deteriorating.

If this is the case, they can react more quickly with the help of the oxygen meter and consult a doctor if necessary.

Monitor oxygen saturation as an extreme athlete

Extreme athletes such as mountain climbers, skiers and sailors are also recommended to use an oxygen meter for regular monitoring. (7, 8)

Oxygen meters are recommended for extreme athletes like mountaineers because oxygen supply becomes difficult at high altitudes. Here, an oxygen meter is helpful to check whether the value is still within the normal range. (Image source: Tom Cleary / Unsplash)

To monitor the enormous strain that extreme athletes put on their bodies during exercise, a pulse oximeter is useful. Especially during mountaineering, where the general oxygen saturation in the air drops, the use of an oxygen meter makes sense.

This will then indicate when the saturation of oxygen in the blood becomes too risky.

For athletes, the use of wrist oximeters is recommended because they are practical and are not easily distorted by movement like finger oximeters.

What are the limitations of an oxygen meter?

The oxygen meter is a good way to keep track of your oxygen levels. However, it only works reliably in a saturation range of 70 to 99 per cent.

Small interfering factors can also affect the measurement. These are listed below:

  • cold hands
  • low blood pressure
  • Nail fungus
  • dark painted nails
  • Circulatory problems

Since the measurement is carried out using light sensors, it can also be influenced relatively easily. Then the values are falsified and a reliable result is no longer displayed. Therefore, you should reduce the interfering factors if possible.

Interfering factors include, for example, cold hands, low blood pressure or movement of the hands.

The condition of the nails can also influence the measurement. For example, red nails are a distorting factor. Likewise, nail fungus and darkly painted nails are an interference factor for the measuring device. (1)

Circulatory disorders can also falsify the measurement, which is why a doctor should be consulted in the case of such disorders. (9)

Due to the interfering factors, the measurement by finger pulse oximeter is not always reliable. It is best to consult your doctor before using it for the first time. He or she can give you further useful tips.

How much does an oxygen meter cost?

Of course, there are pulse oximeters for clinics, but these have more functions and are not suitable for everyday use because they are impractical. These tabletop pulse oximeters are the most expensive, while the practical finger pulse oximeters that can be used in everyday life are the cheapest. The following table represents the approximate prices of the different types of oxygen meters:

type cost
finger pulse oximeter €30-200
wrist pulse oximeter €120-200
tabletop pulse oximeter €800-2,500

A pulse oximeter also has different price categories due to the different types. Depending on the type of oxygen meter, the price varies greatly.

What types of oxygen meters are there?

There are different types of oxygen meters. The most common type is the finger pulse oximeter. Other types are the wrist pulse oximeter or the earlobe pulse oximeter. These are connected to the above-mentioned parts of the body.

Type how it works
Finger pulse oximeter is attached to the finger and measures the value of oxygen saturation using a light beam
Wristpulse oximeter sensor is attached to the wrist (does not slip) and measurement is taken
Table pulse oximeter sensors are attached to the patient while the connected device stands firmly on a table

We will go into further detail about the types and their advantages and disadvantages below.

Finger pulse oximeter

The finger pulse oximeter is probably the most common oxygen measuring device in private use. The easy handling and the reliable results (10) are probably one reason for this.

Advantages
  • low price
  • easy to use
  • small and practical for travelling
Disadvantages
  • not well suited for long-term measurements
  • values can be falsified relatively easily
  • no comprehensive data evaluation

They are simply put on the index finger and measure the oxygen saturation. This practical handling is incredibly well suited for use on the go. However, finger pulse oximeters are not suitable for long-term measurements and measurement errors can quickly occur due to interfering factors.

Wrist pulse oximeter

The wrist pulse oximeter is especially recommended for extreme athletes. Due to the reliable measurement even in motion, it is the perfect type of measurement under these conditions. In addition, the wrist pulse oximeter is perfect for measuring oxygen saturation during sleep.

Advantages
  • Well suited for extreme athletes
  • long-term measurements possible
  • storage of values
Disadvantages
  • More expensive than finger pulse oximeter

With this measurement method, the sensor is attached to the wrist to measure oxygen saturation.

The stability of this measurement method makes it perfect, as the sensors do not slip easily. In addition, the values are stored. However, these devices are also more expensive than finger pulse oximeters.

Pulse oximeter for the table

The tabletop pulse oximeter provides the most accurate results and is therefore mainly used in clinics.

Advantages
  • permanent monitoring of oxygen saturation values
  • very accurate and comprehensive data collection
  • high hygiene
Disadvantages
  • very expensive
  • often only suitable for clinics
  • no mobility

With the help of the pulse oximeter for the table, permanent monitoring of oxygen saturation values is possible, which is also very accurate and extensive. However, due to its high price and impracticality for everyday use, this measuring device is not suitable for daily use.

How low can the oxygen saturation be?

The human body only functions with oxygen. Haemoglobin transports oxygen through the body. So if there is a deficiency, diseases are often the cause.

A permanent lack of oxygen can also lead to organ damage. Therefore, in case of oxygen deficiency, the oxygen saturation must be kept in mind.

The oxygen saturation should be between 97 and 99 percent. (10, 5) If the oxygen deficiency is no longer within this range, it should be monitored by a doctor and kept under constant observation.

This is especially important because permanent organ damage can be the result of an acute deficiency. This acute oxygen deficiency can manifest itself with various unpleasant symptoms, such as:

  • Head colds
  • nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Dizziness

Therefore, oxygen saturation should always be in the normal range. However, the normal oxygen saturation values vary depending on age. The following table again shows the normal saturation values in the different age groups:

age functioning
infancy 98% ascending
adolescence 98% ascending
adulthood 96-98%
senior age 94-98%

If your measured oxygen saturation value falls below those listed above, you should urgently consult a doctor.

What are the alternatives to an oxygen meter?

An alternative to pulse oximeters is blood gas analysis. (11) However, this is only used in hospitals and emergency services and cannot be performed at home.

Blood is taken from the earlobe and its oxygen content is analysed. However, this is only possible with the necessary medical equipment and is cost-intensive. Due to the time involved, this method is not suitable for regular monitoring and is usually only carried out in acute emergencies in hospital.

Image source: Olga Yastremska / 123rf

References (11)

1. Klug N. E.Mobile Pulse Oximetry.2015
Source

2. Jubran A. Pulse oximetry. Crit Care. 2015 Jul 16;19(1):272. doi: 10.1186/s13054-015-0984-8. PMID: 26179876; PMCID: PMC4504215.
Source

3. Mertzlufft F, Zander R. Monitoring des Sauerstofftransportes mittels Puls-Oxymetrie [Monitoring oxygen transport using pulse oximetry]. Anasthesiol Intensivmed Notfallmed Schmerzther. 1993 Feb;28(1):40-4. German. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-998874. PMID: 8467031.
Source

4. Elder JW, Baraff SB, Gaschler WN, Baraff LJ. Pulse Oxygen Saturation Values in a Healthy School-Aged Population. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2015 Sep;31(9):645-7. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000331. PMID: 25526022.
Source

5. STRIEBEL, H. W. Die pulsoximetrische Überwachung. In: Kinderanästhesie—Symposium: 29./30. Mai 1987—Klinikum Steglitz der Freien Universität Berlin. Springer-Verlag, 2013. S. 180.
Source

6. Hritcu-Luca, C., C. Corciova, and R. Ciorap. "Wireless Monitoring of S a O 2 in Chronic Disease." International Conference on Advancements of Medicine and Health Care through Technology. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2009.
Source

7. Heitkamp, H. "Wearables–die bedeutung der neuen technologie für die sportmedizin." Deutsche Zeitschrift für Sportmedizin 12 (2016): 285-286
Source

8. Buschmann, Johannes P., and Jin Huang. "Mobiles Monitoring―Quo vadis? Korperkerntemperatur und Pulsoximetrie werden kontinuierliche mobile Vitalparameter." Technologiegestützte Dienstleistungsinnovation in der Gesundheitswirtschaft. Gabler Verlag, 2012. 187-212. APA
Source

9. Calaminus, J. M. "Pulsoximetrie." Biomedizinische Technik/Biomedical Engineering 33.s3 (1988): 32-33. APA
Source

10. Smith RN, Hofmeyr R. Perioperative comparison of the agreement between a portable fingertip pulse oximeter v. a conventional bedside pulse oximeter in adult patients (COMFORT trial). S Afr Med J. 2019 Feb 26;109(3):154-158. doi: 10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i3.13633. PMID: 30834870.
Source

11. Boemke W, Krebs MO, Rossaint R. Blutgasanalyse [Blood gas analysis]. Anaesthesist. 2004 May;53(5):471-92; quiz 493-4. German. doi: 10.1007/s00101-004-0680-6. PMID: 15222335.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Klug N. E.Mobile Pulse Oximetry.2015
Klug N. E.Mobile Pulse Oximetry.2015
Go to source
Pulse oximetry
Jubran A. Pulse oximetry. Crit Care. 2015 Jul 16;19(1):272. doi: 10.1186/s13054-015-0984-8. PMID: 26179876; PMCID: PMC4504215.
Go to source
Monitoring des Sauerstofftransportes mittels Puls-Oxymetrie
Mertzlufft F, Zander R. Monitoring des Sauerstofftransportes mittels Puls-Oxymetrie [Monitoring oxygen transport using pulse oximetry]. Anasthesiol Intensivmed Notfallmed Schmerzther. 1993 Feb;28(1):40-4. German. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-998874. PMID: 8467031.
Go to source
Pulse Oxygen Saturation Values in a Healthy School-Aged Population
Elder JW, Baraff SB, Gaschler WN, Baraff LJ. Pulse Oxygen Saturation Values in a Healthy School-Aged Population. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2015 Sep;31(9):645-7. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000331. PMID: 25526022.
Go to source
Die pulsoximetrische Überwachung.
STRIEBEL, H. W. Die pulsoximetrische Überwachung. In: Kinderanästhesie—Symposium: 29./30. Mai 1987—Klinikum Steglitz der Freien Universität Berlin. Springer-Verlag, 2013. S. 180.
Go to source
"Wireless Monitoring of S a O 2 in Chronic Disease."
Hritcu-Luca, C., C. Corciova, and R. Ciorap. "Wireless Monitoring of S a O 2 in Chronic Disease." International Conference on Advancements of Medicine and Health Care through Technology. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2009.
Go to source
Wearables–die bedeutung der neuen technologie für die sportmedizin.
Heitkamp, H. "Wearables–die bedeutung der neuen technologie für die sportmedizin." Deutsche Zeitschrift für Sportmedizin 12 (2016): 285-286
Go to source
Mobiles Monitoring―Quo vadis? Korperkerntemperatur und Pulsoximetrie werden kontinuierliche mobile Vitalparameter.
Buschmann, Johannes P., and Jin Huang. "Mobiles Monitoring―Quo vadis? Korperkerntemperatur und Pulsoximetrie werden kontinuierliche mobile Vitalparameter." Technologiegestützte Dienstleistungsinnovation in der Gesundheitswirtschaft. Gabler Verlag, 2012. 187-212. APA
Go to source
Pulsoximetrie." Biomedizinische Technik/Biomedical Engineering
Calaminus, J. M. "Pulsoximetrie." Biomedizinische Technik/Biomedical Engineering 33.s3 (1988): 32-33. APA
Go to source
erioperative comparison of the agreement between a portable fingertip pulse oximeter v. a conventional bedside pulse oximeter in adult patients
Smith RN, Hofmeyr R. Perioperative comparison of the agreement between a portable fingertip pulse oximeter v. a conventional bedside pulse oximeter in adult patients (COMFORT trial). S Afr Med J. 2019 Feb 26;109(3):154-158. doi: 10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i3.13633. PMID: 30834870.
Go to source
Blood gas analysis
Boemke W, Krebs MO, Rossaint R. Blutgasanalyse [Blood gas analysis]. Anaesthesist. 2004 May;53(5):471-92; quiz 493-4. German. doi: 10.1007/s00101-004-0680-6. PMID: 15222335.
Go to source
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