Pulse oximetry for perioperative monitoring: systematic review of randomized, controlled trials

Anesth Analg. 2003 Feb;96(2):426-31, table of contents. doi: 10.1097/00000539-200302000-00024.


Monitoring with pulse oximetry might improve patient outcome by enabling an early diagnosis and, consequently, correction of perioperative events that might otherwise cause postoperative complications or even death. The aim of the study was to clarify the effect of perioperative monitoring with pulse oximetry and to identify the adverse outcomes that might be prevented or improved by its use. Trials were identified by computerized searches of the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and by checking the reference lists of trials and review articles. All controlled trials that randomized patients to either pulse oximetry or no pulse oximetry during the perioperative period, including in the operating and recovery room, were included in the study. The search identified six reports. Of these 6 reports, 4 studies with data from 21,773 patients were considered eligible for analysis. Two studies specifically addressed the outcomes in question; both found no effect on the rate of postoperative complications using perioperative pulse oximetry. Hypoxemia was reduced in the pulse oximetry group both in the operating room and in the recovery room. During observation in the recovery room, the incidence of hypoxemia in the pulse oximetry group was 1.5-3 times less. There were postoperative complications in 10% of the patients in the oximetry group and in 9.4% in the control group. The duration of hospital stay was a median of 5 days in both groups, and an equal number of in-hospital deaths was registered in both groups. The studies confirmed that pulse oximetry could detect hypoxemia and related events. However, given the relatively small number of patients studied and the rare events being sought, the studies were not able to show an improvement in various outcomes.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / diagnosis
  • Monitoring, Intraoperative / instrumentation*
  • Oximetry*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Postoperative Complications / blood
  • Postoperative Complications / psychology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research Design
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Oxygen