Background: Administration of oxygen in the delivery room is informed by oxygen saturation (SpO₂). An oxygen saturation range of 60%-70% is the threshold for administering oxygen in the first minutes after birth. The accuracy of newer generation oximeters to measure SpO₂ has not been compared against the 'gold standard', direct arterial blood oxygen saturation (SaO₂) when SaO₂ is low. The aim of this study was to determine the accuracy and precision of Nellcor and Masimo oximeters to measure SpO₂ when SaO₂ <70%.
Method: Prospective observational study in ventilated anaesthetised newborn lambs with an indwelling carotid artery catheter. Ventilation was adjusted to achieve hypoxaemia. Nellcor (Oxi-Max 600 with Max-N sensor) and Masimo (Rad 4 with low noise optical probe (LNOP) sensor) sensors were applied to the right forelimb (preductal). An arterial blood sample was collected at 1-5 min intervals when the animal was hypoxic. The displayed SpO₂ was recorded. We used Bland-Altman analysis to determine precision and accuracy of each oximeter when SaO₂ <70%.
Results: 17 lambs were studied, 165 measurements were obtained, 123 were SaO₂ <70%. The mean difference (±1.96 SD) Nellcor SpO₂-SaO₂ when SaO₂ <70% was 17% (-12% to 46%). The mean difference (±1.96 SD) Masimo SpO₂-SaO₂ when SaO2 <70% was 13% (-19% to 45%).
Conclusions: At SaO₂<70%, both monitors overestimated oxygen saturation (SpO₂) compared with the gold standard. Both oximeters were equally inaccurate when SaO₂ was low.