Normal values of pulse oximetry in newborns at high altitude

J Trop Pediatr. 2005 Jun;51(3):170-3. doi: 10.1093/tropej/fmi026. Epub 2005 Apr 26.


The aim of the study was to establish normal values of pulse oximetry saturation, respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure in healthy newborns at high altitude. Vital signs and oximetry saturation readings were collected from healthy term newborns at birth, at 1 h, and at 24 h of life. These were analyzed and compared with reference ranges at sea level. This study was carried out at altitudes of 1640 m above sea level in Taif city, Saudi Arabia. A total of 6011 term newborns were examined at birth and 1 h and 4274 were examined at 24 h of life. At birth, the mean SpO(2) was 68.6 per cent and 60.3 per cent from the right upper and lower limbs, respectively. Mean SpO(2) was 94.3 per cent and 95.4 per cent at the age of 1 and 24 h, respectively. These values were significantly lower than those reported at sea level. The mean respiratory rate, heart rate, and mean blood pressure at 24 h were 45.7/min, 149.7/min, and 46.9 mmHg, respectively. It is concluded that pulse oximetry saturation for newborn babies is lower at higher altitudes than at sea level. This effect is observable at altitudes of 1600 m above sea level. Cut-off levels lower than those used at sea level should be adopted when dealing with newborns living at high altitudes.

MeSH terms

  • Altitude*
  • Birth Weight
  • Blood Pressure Determination
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Hemodynamics / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Oximetry*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Probability
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Saudi Arabia