Background: Pulse oximetry is a simple and non-invasive procedure widely used nowadays in the clinical practice. However, it is unclear if SpO2 values are constant throughout the 24 hours of the day or have periodic fluctuations. In the present study we evaluated if progressive day-night variations of SpO, values occur in children.
Material and methods: Pulse oximetry (Nonin 2500) was carried out approximately every 2 hours during a 24-hours period in pediatric patients hospitalized due to different diseases but without acute or chronic respiratory diseases. Measurements were analyzed through the cosinor method (sinusoidal curve fitting).
Results: A total of 131 patients (23 days to 16 years old) were studied. A sinusoidal fitting of the SpO2 values was accomplished in 84.7% of children. According to these curves, maximal SpO2 values occurred in the late afternoon [4:53 PM (3:49-5:32 PM), median (quartile 1-quartile 3)], while minimal values appeared in the first hours of the day [3:06 AM (2:12-4:08 AM)]. This pattern was the same in sleeping or awake children. More than half of these sinusoidal curves had a period near to 24 hours (between 20 and 28 hours). An additional finding was that maximal and minimal SpO2 values diminished with age (approximately 0.15 and approximately 0.13% SpO2 per year, respectively). In children less than six years old 5th percentile of SpO2 values were 93.8% in the late afternoon and 89.8% in the early hours of the day, while corresponding figures for older children were 91.0% and 88.5%, respectively.
Conclusions: Our results suggested that, regardless of the sleep influence, in most children the SpO2 follows a progressive fluctuation during a 24-hours cycle, a pattern which is suggestive of a circadian rhythm. A prospective study in healthy children is warranted.