Home Use Oximeter & Atrial Fibrillation - AF Association

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Home Use Oximeter & Atrial Fibrillation

Suzanne-Cheshire
Suzanne-Cheshire

I've just bought a little gadget called an oximeter which as you may know clips on your index finger and measures your oxygen saturation level (normal range usually 95-99%). It's an inexpensive item and may not be completely accurate but gives a good indication of oxygen saturation level.

I did this after reading a GP write in a national newspaper, this week, that this gadget is useful should someone get novel coronavirus -so they know when to seek assistance - when their reading is for a few days consistently running below their own normal level. In the example she gave this was a reading of 94 for 4 days running, when the person's normal reading was around 98.

But what interested me was that she mentioned for AF sufferers they may well have their own 'normal'.

My catheter ablation due Tuesday has been cancelled for obvious reasons and goodness knows when it will happen. So knowing that I will be living with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation for a while longer I thought I would see how the oxygen saturation level differs when I am in or out of AF. The strange thing is it doesn't seem to differ for me. It stays between 97 & 98%.

Has any other AF sufferer tried this gadget at home who would like to share their experience?

57 Replies
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BobD
BobDVolunteer

I don't own gadgets as for me they only increase my anxiety levels but had a Parmedic friend who showed me theirs and level was 98%. even with HR of 100. I think due to arterial damage in right wrist following angiogram reading in right index finger may well be lower though as right hand always more pale than left.. If you must use the thing just establish your normal and put it away till you feel you need it. I'm really not so sure about any of these supposed experts who publish stuff in national papers.

If you have a Samsung phone then you can download the app from playstore. It may work on any smartphone as it uses the camera and flash to check the colour of the finger.

Which one do you use. I have quite a good heart rate monitor installed and have looked at the oximeters but none of them are rated very highly.

I have SAMSUNG HEALTH. It is firmware and has walking, water consumption, heart rate and O2 saturation.

Thank you

Hi, yes I have one, mine cost £70 and includes a vascular condition monitor as well as HR and Blood Oxygen. My average BO is 95 and readings range from 93 to 97, HR is average of 64. Nothing about this bothers me.

I might add that I am a key worker, bus driver, and many of my passengers are care home workers. So this device is part of my armoury as is my thermometer. I take my temperature before I leave home for work. When I get to my bus depot the duty supervisor also takes my temperature before I sign on.

A small BO variation like I have is neither here nor there, if one day it suddenly dropped to, say, 81 then I'd be on the phone for more advice and I'd ring in sick.

John

That sounds the ideal way of using the machine. Makes a lot of sense. Given that this virus has clearly affected more people than know they've had it, it's a good thing to know what is the normal range for you. Because who knows, it could provide early warning. Thanks for replying.

And well done for continuing in your role as a bus driver. You reflect the selflessness of the true Brit.

Hi,

To be honest, I do understand what BobD is saying and it would be easy to freak out over the results given by gadgets ........... in another career life in a galaxy far away now ... I used the dark arts of Business statistics, back in the day when we used logarithms to perform calculations and not smartphone, tablets and computers. One of the features I loved was standard deviation [SD] (about a mean).

So today in my mid 70's with body bits starting to malfunction I apply the SD to results that gadgets give me.

For instance .....if I feel well I carry on with life as I did in my early 40's.

If I feel unwell my body tells me what I need to know and I'll resort to doing a check on whatever. If the results tell me that I am within the deviation (or range if you like) of what is for me normal, then I carry on. Fer instance, when my HR drops to 44 from a mean of 65 ( and I normally function quite well with a range of 58 to 72 bpm) then I take it seriously but usually it is the Bisoprolol at work getting carried away with itself.

Since my AF was originally diagnosed - over 10 years ago now - I have made much more of an effort to identify what's normal for my body and what isn't. So yes I use different gadgets for different things, some address family genetics, i.e. diabetes 2 runs on my fathers side, I follow a diet/lifestyle to control both my AF and to reduce the risk of slipping into diabetes and so periodically I carry out random blood tests for my blood sugar. This follows a scare a few years ago during an eyesight test when the optician detected very raised blood sugar levels. An appropriate blood test confirmed his diagnosis and that I was almost at the prediabetic level.

In other words I use gadgets and the information they give me to monitor and control my medical weaknesses, both actual and genetic. I usually see my GP once a year when I have to have a medical to retain my bus drivers licence. The one area that falls outside this is the growth of osteoarthritis in some joints. My GP is young ish late 30's/early 40's I guess and is all very factual hard evidence based in her thinking. So if I do have an issue and I front up with hardcore evidence she sits up and takes notice.

So, I use my leaning towards statistics to work for me in a number of areas and so far its a discipline that works for me ......... for now at least :-)

John

"Some people have suggested buying one and testing yourself to understand your ‘normal’ oxygen levels as a precaution, but if you haven’t been diagnosed and you’re not experiencing symptoms, this isn’t necessary."

But by the time you have symptoms it's a bit late to start thinking about ordering one.

which.co.uk/news/2020/05/pu...

Note that they're not reliable for measuring heart rate whilst in AF.

Exactly! And yes in AF it's no good trying to look at the HR reading, of course.

carneuny
carneuny in reply to ectopic1

Not even all BP monitors will do that either.

Kardia monitor is the most useful one in AF for heart rate.

ectopic1
ectopic1 in reply to carneuny

I don't have a BP monitor, my BP's generally OK.

Jalia
Jalia in reply to ectopic1

Paramedics have always used this on me initially to gauge heart rate and of course Spo2

But it's not much good for HR if you are in Afib. But oxygen saturation is a good indicator in an emergency situation I should think.

It depends how your heart is ‘running’. Weak beats won’t be counted but if most of your beats are reasonably strong it gives a fair idea. I went to A&E because I was feeling very faint with AF and the triage nurse was getting noticeably anxious looking at my oximetry readout! I have a fitness watch which monitors my HR using green light technology and it is very inaccurate compared to Kardia.

ectopic1
ectopic1 in reply to Jalia

The very first time I had an ambulance when I was diagnosed in 2012, the paramedic walked in and put an oximeter on my finger, it read 70bpm.

"Oh no!" I said, exasperated that my heart had reverted before they'd got to see it.

"Don't worry, I'll put the ECG on in a minute" he said, and when he did, my heart rate was 210.

When we got to A&E, the triage nurse put one on as well, then shrugged and said there's nothing wrong. The paramedics protested, and showed her the ECGs they'd printed, but she took no notice. When I eventually got into Majors, the nurse wired me up to the monitor, too one look at my HR, then dashed out of the door to get me transferred to Resus.

The problem is that when I'm in AF my heart produces one strong pulse then two weak ones: SwwSwwSww etc., and the oximeter reads a third of the true heart rate because it's only responding to the strong pulses and not the weaker ones in between.

CDreamer
CDreamer in reply to ectopic1

I’ve had that happen to me - just very poorly trained nurse as most know that when in AF an O2/pulse monitor will not read HR correctly.

ectopic1
ectopic1 in reply to CDreamer

There are two occasions when the hospital have used the oximeter function on the bedside monitor to track my HR instead of switching it to ECG mode. One was whilst I had a colonoscopy, but the other was when I was in with AF. I tried telling them, but they took no notice.

Re poorly trained nurses:

When they stop your heart with adenosine they swap you over to a monitor that prints a continuous strip of paper instead of just a screen. On this occasion, they left me on it after they'd finished, and the bedside monitor, unused with the leads draped over it, was bleeping and flashing "leads not connected" on the screen.

Half an hour later a nurse walked in:

"Why is this bleeping?"

"Oh, it's ok, I'm connected to this one on the trolley, not that one"

No response, she just started pressing buttons at random.

Again she muttered "why is it bleeping", and again I told her, pointing to the annunciator on the screen and the leads draped over it. Eventually after another minute or so faffing with it, she said triumphantly "Oh, I know why it's bleeping, it's because the leads aren't connected!".

CDreamer
CDreamer in reply to ectopic1

🙉🙈🙊

Jalia
Jalia in reply to ectopic1

Yes ectopic1 , I accept that. In fact I had a not dissimilar experience with my GP last year. My Kardia showed AF at about 235bpm as I arrived at surgery but when he used oximeter it showed 70 bpm and I felt very briefly relieved. Minutes later back in the waiting room I was back in the 230 s. .....( A& E....DCCV)

I find my oximeter spends quite alot of time flashing through all the rates before settling. A very useful bit of kit to give an idea of rate though whether in AF or not

KMRobbo
KMRobbo in reply to ectopic1

I had the same, my Garmin Hr monitor said 165 to 170, the nurse in A& E checked a finger and it was normal, but I still had the Garmin on and explained I needed an ECG which confirmed the high rate !

ectopic1
ectopic1 in reply to KMRobbo

Yes, I have a couple of Polar heart rate monitors, and I've always found them reliable, and giving the same reading as the Zoll portable ECG monitors that the paramedics use.

I've got one, I range from 93-99 % but I use it more for heart rate readings.

Ok. So that's good you know your normal :)

I have one and use it to record my stats once a day ( sometimes twice) it gives me 96-99 with 98 most of the time afib or not

I find it reassuring when in afib to see my heart lung combo is doing a good job.

The pulse meter is wrong when in afib but also strangely reasssuring if Kardia is saying 140 but the oxymeter says 67 I can get a bit of comfort.

I think they are a great device and combined with a bp measure and thermometer give a good picture of normal ( we are not all the same) that you can use to decide if and when there is a significant change

I still haven't worked out why my oxygen saturation doesn't drop in AF! It seems a bit odd to me.

Healthy ventricles pumping enough to your body & maybe your BP doesn’t fluctuate too much? Everyone responds differently. Be glad, very, very glad!

I bought one after reading a few similar articles. What is pleasing (when not in afib of course) is leaving it on for a little while, taking a few deep breaths and watching my O2 rate increase whilst my HR decreases.

On the subject of gadgets I disagree with Bob but I do think it is very personal as some people find the information can increase anxiety. I find using them very reassuring and helpful information to take to my doctors who also finds it very useful. Both my husband & I have been asked to keep BP, ECG & Oximeter readings and when they have been found to be a little off, arrangements made for further investigations which have been very informative.

Yes, I’ve used an oximeter for many years and it has been very helpful. When in AF my sats would regularly fall to 88-92 and I would feel very unwell. My ‘norm’ was then about 94-95 but following various treatments, it is now 95-98 nearly all of the time and I feel SO much better because of it.

I find it reassuring, especially during these times, to take my temperature and my sats most mornings and some evenings. Low O2 is one of the first signs of any respiratory distress and for me that is most important as my muscles don’t always work as they should and I need to do quite a lot of breathing exercises and use the oximeter to check how affective they are - pleased to say I can see the difference!

So, where can you get one of these just now? I looked on Amazon a few days ago and all the ones immediately available in the UK are £84 - £500, while the £15 - £40 models are all to come from China - by July 30th!!!

Edit: And they all look alike, regardless of cost!!

I think Argos have them in stock? I'm assuming you are in the UK!

Ppiman
Ppiman in reply to momist

I struggled but did find one on eBay at £26.99 posted from Glenfield, Leicester. These are still available, I see. Search for “Fingertip pulse SpO2 Oximeter Blood Oxygen Saturation Meter Finger PR Monitor F”

CDreamer
CDreamer in reply to Ppiman

Boots had them a couple of weeks ago. I bought mine from the shop about 6 years ago for about £12 & still going strong.

irene75359
irene75359 in reply to momist

I bought two for us and my daughter's family from here

tower-health.co.uk/vascular...

Discount code WG15100 (over £100 spend and buying two I qualified) which took the price for an individual unit down to £52.45. This items also checks vascular health.

Delivery was three days and we were impressed with the quality.

seasider18
seasider18 in reply to momist

I think we only paid £15 for ours about four years ago.

momist
momist in reply to momist

Thanks everyone for all your recommendations. Argos may have them mail order, but no stock in any outlet. Boots - I couldn't find them online, and my nearest is not currently a safe place to go. I found one on eBay for £18.49 for posting from Manchester, so that is hopefully on it's way.

I have done the same as you Suzanne. I purchased an oximetry about a month ago after reading an article relating to Coronavirus and I have found it useful. I now know that my normal is around 93 - 95 but when in AF drops to 88-90. Together with my Kardia, which I have had since they first became available and still think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, I find my gadgets very reassuring. For me, they give a little bit of control over my otherwise out of control AF. Information is King as far as I’m concerned.

7164
7164 in reply to Boudica_HD

Bionica

How does the Kardia machine help?

The chances of sending a reading directly to my cardio are nil. So how does it help please

Rod

Boudica_HD
Boudica_HD in reply to 7164

For me, 7164, it’s more about understanding what my body is doing. I go into AF regularly, sometimes only for 24 hours and sometimes for days on end, the longest bout being 10 days. Then I self-convert. I’ve never gone to A&E as my Kardia tells me that at my worst my bpm is around 140-150 average (although very erratic) and despite feelIng quite poorly, I know at that rate I just need to take things slowly and I will cope. If at any time bpm went drastically higher than that I may well consider a trip to hospital or calling the doc. That hasn’t happened yet, but Kardia provides a gauge for me in the main.

However, I was given the ‘premium’ Kardia service without having to subscribe, for being an early adopter. I find that having all that AF history recorded, which I can email to my GP to inform our consultations, is very helpful.

I have also, on a couple of occasions, used the medical report service and paid the £5 fee to get a medical interpretation of my reading when I’ve felt something unusual was happening.

I must admit, I don’t know how much the subscription to Kardia premium service is, but I like having it.

7164
7164 in reply to Boudica_HD

Thank you

Are you on meds or ablation or just live with it? Ten days in symptomatic Af how on earth you deal or go to work?

The frogs leaping in my chest really scare me

😊

Rod

Boudica_HD
Boudica_HD in reply to 7164

I’m on Flecainide 2 x 100, Bisoprolol 5mg and 2 x Apixaban daily. I just live with it. I haven’t had any procedures so far, but I suspect that will be next steps. For the first year or so I used to be scared every time it happened and felt very alone. Then I came across these forums and learnt a lot from reading others posts and realised there are a lot of people coping with the same thing and that made me feel less isolated and more informed. I then went a couple of years where I’d probably only get 2 or 3 episodes of 5 or so days per year, the meds were controlling things pretty well. Over the past 6 months though it has become regular again, so when this damn C-word thing has settled I will probably need to consult again.

You are right, it is hard to work when you are feeling so unwell and may have been awake through the night. I have found myself nodding off at my keyboard occasionally. Thank goodness I don’t have a manual job. That would be far more difficult to cope with. I am definitely looking forward to retiring In the next couple of years 🙂

7164
7164 in reply to Boudica_HD

Boudicca

The drugs that you mention were really not good for me so stopped them.

I am PAF still and the general opinion on this forum is do the ablation before the Afib moved on so no choice if I want to try to live a QOL.

You are correct learnt more here than from the doctors unfortunately.

Rod

lindat15
lindat15 in reply to Boudica_HD

I think it's an annual cost of £99. For me it's been great to have especially since the SVT which developed after 2nd ablation- my EP has been happy for me to monitor in this way and to receive email of relevant ECGs via his secretary - this was particularly useful in demonstrating what was happening. I did not really use it very much previously though when I was in persistent AF.

I too find the knowledge reassuring. I've had my Kardia since they first came out too; well I have had 2 and will have to get a third as when I got a new phone I couldn't reattach the electrodes! I find it odd that my oxygen saturation is the same in and out of AF. I would have guessed it would be lower. But it's good to know what is 'normal' for each individual.

I’ve still got the original, just keep it in a box as I don’t attach to my phone, a step too far for me 😀

I think I'll do the same with the next one!

We bought one for similar reasons, although I gather that with Covid, the blood oxygen levels can plummet rather rapidly. I had an ablation around nine months ago and still have ectopic beats and other sometimes worrying oddities. My own oxygen levels vary from 94-100%. My wife and an elderly friend tried it with less success, though. They both have mild Raynaud’s which means cold fingers and the LCD display simply reads “finger removed”.

Steve

Thanks for posting Suzanne. I have used an Oximeter off and on for some time. My O2 levels are not good enough at average 95 and like raymelb above I can increase it temporarily by some deep breaths. I am currently researching Patrick McKewoan oxygenadvantage.com , looking at his videos & ordered his mouth tapes for using at night along with a nasal strip. So far I have found his advice (e.g. how to clear a stuffed up nose) useful. I have mild sleep apnea and I think oxygen levels & better breathing could be an area to improve to reduce AF risk.

Coincidentally, as a welcome result of the Virus lockdown I am working 4 hours a day more on my smallholding rather than in front of my work computer and my pulse has increased 5 pints plus back to pre AF levels with resultant more energy.

The silver lining!

My oximeter has a bit of a nervous breakdown faced with AF but it still shows SATS which is what you need to know. I saw that article and thought it was very important info. Luckily my SATS are amazingly good - something to do with having lived at high altitude as a child I think. A nurse told me drs don’t like your level to be 100% but as I wasn’t on oxygen therapy it was ok.

We have had one for several years. One problem and paramedics and A&E have agreed with me is that they tend to show a lower heart rate than BP monitors and ECG's. My pacemaker is set at 60 bpm and I often get mid 50 readings that the pacemaker clinic deny and some of 41 bpm when at A&E in February when in AF. However they also told me that individual readings are not picked up and there needs to be six results of incidents to be recorded.

Hi Suzanne

Yes I bought one in Lidl a couple of years ago for £15.00 and it gives the 02 rate and the heart rate which I find invaluable. It also shows you a shark tooth graph

Showing your heart rate, this I find

Very helpful as you can see if you are in or out of A . F or if you are regular or not.

Keep safe Bob

I depend on mine with my AF episodes. For my type of AF, the heart rate and and rhythm pattern it shows are the most useful and I can quickly see if I'm in AF. I keep mine at my bedside. Cheap, $30 Canadian.

90% SpO2 is the 'knee' for adults where it starts to go into free fall. My GP measured it at 76% and told me to straight to A&E where the hot clinic team would be waiting for me. I won't bore you with the details, except to say that I was later told that I had been close to death that night. An oximeter saved me, so needless to say I have one at home.

Wow, you were very lucky. I'm glad you received the right treatment and recovered.

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