Aim: To determine the accuracy of pulse oximetry measurement of heart rate in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Methods: Stable preterm infants were monitored with a pulse oximeter and an ECG. The displays of both monitors were captured on video. Heart rate data from both monitors, including measures of signal quality, were extracted and analysed using Bland Altman plots.
Results: In 30 infants the mean (SD) difference between heart rate measured by pulse oximetry and electrocardiography was -0.4 (12) beats per minute. Accuracy was maintained when the signal quality or perfusion was low.
Conclusion: Pulse oximetry may provide a useful measurement of heart rate in the neonatal intensive care unit. Studies of this technique in the delivery room are indicated.