Study: Pulse oximetry less accurate for people with dark skin

Reliance on pulse oximetry to determine a patient’s oxygen status came under question with the release of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting the practice results in poor outcomes for people of color. The study authors paired pulse oximetry measures with arterial blood gas measures taken within 10 minutes of each other. In almost 11,000 pairs of measurements, hypoxia undetected by pulse oximetry appeared in Black patients almost three times more often than in white patients. The authors concluded “reliance on pulse oximetry to triage patients and adjust supplemental oxygen levels may place Black patients at increased risk for hypoxemia.”