Pulse oximetry in very low birth weight infants: can oxygen saturation be maintained in the desired range?

J Perinatol. 2006 Jun;26(6):337-41. doi: 10.1038/sj.jp.7211500.


Objective: To determine if a change in the pulse oximeter goal range and high alarm limit for oxygen saturation (SpO2) alters the distribution of SpO2 for premature infants in oxygen.

Study design: This was a prospective, observational analysis. For group 1 (February 2002 to April 2002, n = 23), pulse oximeter alarms were set at 80% (low) and 96% (high), and the goal range was 90-95%. For group 2 (May 2002 to August 2003, n = 49), the high alarm was lowered to 94%, and the goal range was 88 to 94%. The SpO2 values for 24 h were downloaded from Nellcor pulse oximeters during the two periods and the percent time within, above and below the goal range was derived and compared.

Results: Groups were similar except for use of post-natal steroids (group 2 > 1). The percent time within (57.7+/-9.8 vs 59.4+/-12.4%), above (15.4+/-10.6 vs 14+/-9.4%) and below (26.9+/-9.7 vs 26.6+/-10.2%) the goal range was similar for groups 1 and 2, respectively. However, the percent time with SpO2 <80% increased significantly for group 2 (4.0+/-2.7 vs 1.9+/-1.4%).

Conclusions: Changes in pulse oximeter policy and alarms in labile, sick premature infants need evaluation for their effects on the distribution of SpO2 values before routine use.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight / blood*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Male
  • Oximetry / standards*
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Oxygen