Project Details

Early Career

Status: Funded - Closed

Effect of skin pigmentation on the accuracy of pulse oximetry in cyanotic infants

Elizabeth Foglia, M.D.


BACKGROUND: Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive method of measuring the degree of oxygen saturation in the arterial blood. This technology is used during neonatal resuscitation to monitor newborns immediately after birth and to guide the care of infants with cyanotic congenital heart disease. Both of these patient populations have baseline low oxygen saturation levels.

GAP: In dark-skinned adults, a systematic error in pulse oximetry measurement occurs when oxygen saturation levels are <90%.  The same effect is not seen in light-skinned adult subjects.  The effect of skin pigmentation on the accuracy of pulse oximetry in hypoxemic children is unknown.

HYPOTHESIS:  Pulse oximetry systematically overestimates arterial oxyhemoglobin saturation to a greater extent in cyanotic infants with dark skin compared to cyanotic infants with light skin. 

METHODS: This is a cross sectional study of infants with cyanotic congenital heart disease.  Pulse oximetry and arterial oxyhemoglobin will be measured simultaneously to study the association between skin pigmentation and bias in pulse oximetry measurement.

RESULTS: Pending

DISCUSSION: Pulse oximetry is routinely used in the care of children with low baseline oxygen saturation levels, but darkly pigmented skin may systematically alter the accuracy of pulse oximetry in cyanotic infants.  If the study hypothesis is correct, these findings could significantly alter the way pulse oximetry is used in dark-skinned pediatric populations.

Pulse Oximetry, Cross-Sectional, Human

Supervising Institution:
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Barbara Schmidt

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