Pulse Oximetry racial bias report

Pulse Oximetry racial bias report

 The NHS Race and Health Observatory has published recommendations around the use of pulse oximetry and racial bias. The full document can be found here Pulse-oximetry-racial-bias-report.pdf (nhsconfed.org)

This rapid review outlines the growing body of evidence that has revealed discrepancies in the reliability of pulse oximeters when comparing the use of pulse oximeters in lighter skinned vs darker skinned individuals. There are concerns that oxygen saturation levels may be overestimated in those individuals with darker skin. 

The recommendations of the rapid review are:

  1. There should be an urgent review of pulse oximetry medical products used in the UK
  2. Identification of suitable parameters to identify hypoxia need to be verified
  3. Review of all medical equipment and devices
  4. Further research is needed 

These findings are particularly concerning given the utilisation of remote pulse oximetry readings in COVID-19 care in primary and community settings. Whilst medical products and review of the pulse oximetry takes place at London and National level, we ask that this information is circulated to all practitioners. If there are concerns, pulse oximetry readings should be considered as part of a thorough clinical assessment and local escalation pathways followed when needed. We will provide a further update when we have more information.

 Dr. Stephanie Coughlin, NEL Clinical Lead Oximetry at Home