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British Lung Foundation
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x ray shows small scar on lungs with "some collapse". oximetre reading of 94%. Are these related?

I wonder if I am using my home oximetre properly. I leave it clipped on my finger for five minutes. Is that long enough. Too long? Should I just take an instant reading which looks better usually 98% but looks too good to be true .I can't find info on this anywhere.

btw My sprrometry was "normal "- fvc 85% fvc/fev1 ratio 97%

doctor says I just have to stay off the fags and the scars shouldn't get better. Should I pay for a ct?

12 Replies

Hi, you don't need to leave the oximeter on for 5 minutes, once the reading is steady is sufficient, usually less than a minute. A reading of 98% is very good, mine were 95% yesterday and that's around what they usually are and are considered good. I can't comment on your 94% ratio but do know that an fvc/fev1 ratio of around 80% is considered normal. You can call the BLF helpline 10 - 6 Mon to Fri on 03000 030 555 and they will be able to give you more professional advice. Libby


thanks libby. I will call the helpline. What I don't get is the fact that the longer I keep the oximetre on (20 minutes in one session) the lower the saturation appears to want to settle. What I mean is - for a typical sessions:

one minute - 99%

three minutes - 98%

five minutes - 96%

ten minutes - 94% and it remains at this figure for a further ten minutes with occasional flashes of 93%(lastin no more than the time it takes for a heartbeat0 and then rallies back up to the dizzing heights of 94%.

Worryingly - it seems to not want to go any highter up once a certain "rubicon" time elapse of about ten minutes of being attached to the oximetre. Is it possible that the sensors become themselves too sensisted? sorry to go on a bit, but this is driving me nuts.


Do some nice deep, long breaths and watch it go up.


Thanks peeg

Herein lies the difficulty in me understanding the point of doing oximetry. I am trying to use the oximeter to get as close to a clinical snapshot of my saturation levels as it is possible for a layman to do. I don't want to "trick" the machine into thinking my sats are better than what they are. What I would like is someone to tell me the correct posture, the correct breathing to use and at what point to "believe" what the oximeter is telling me. Libby's advice to take the reading usually in the same situation seems great advice, and I will follow this.

I guess I would like someone who knows how to use an oximetre to take me by the hand a bit as I am a bit thick so's I don't give myself a false sense of security, while at the same time not worrying unduly when I am outside the 95% - 98% normal range. Iwould also like to know if my smoking fags for about forty years means I should have a lower predicted oxygen saturation point. I believe the manufacturers manual for the oximetre should also cover how to use the machine much more comprehensively than it does. Especially for technoplhobes like myself.

I'd appreciate if you could let me know what you think.



Mine is a Biosync, £19 through Amazon. It shows oxygen level and pulse and that's all I want or need.

I got it as a tool to help myself ie if I'm feeling dreadful I take a reading (it takes 10 seconds to show) to see if low ox. is a cause and

I want to know if it's low oxygen that's making me feel ill. I want is to prevent any further damage to lungs/other organs and learn when I need to alter my breathing to improve the level.

Once at GP's he took my sats & temperature, said OMG how did you get here you have to go to hospital right now. It was low 80's I think& temp over 40.

I'd driven only 14 miles through London, from a funeral directors (my childrens father died 2 days earlier). I absolutely couldnt/wouldnt go to A&E at that dreadful time, begged for antibiotics and to know what to do to get through the next few days.

He got me to take deep, slow breaths for a while & the levels came up which seemed to make him feel relieved. So this is what I still do.

I smoked as a student, maybe 5 or 6 a day. Then later, 1997 - 2001/2 approx none to 10 a day. I absolutely loath the smell and the fumes now plus they make me choke.

Then Feb 2010 I got pleurisy followed a week later by the 1st pneumonia and it's been downhill ever since - still waiting for a diagnosis.

I've learnt so much from being on this site as well as seen how ill people can become. I'll do anything to help myself.

One of the most important things to realise is that we're all different and what ever diagnosis we have can affect us differently.

Sorry I cant help with the technicalities of an oximeter but I wish you well - did you give up the cigs?

PS my sats are normally 98/99% and go down when ill. I some times take them at night when they go down so oximeter is usually by my bed while I'm well - this probably hasn't helped you at all!


thanks peeg, you have helped, especially the tip about it being ok to use deep breathing when taking a reading. if a doc says it's ok to do this then it probably is ok to go with the best reading we can.

Your sats of 98/99 (without inhaling oxygen I'm presuming - since you still await your diagnosis)sound fabulous to me so I wonder if blood oxygen levels are a reliable predictor of very much at all.

I am off the fags still, and the nocturnal wheezing has miraculously disappeared.

I also had to blow up my grandchild's baloons the other day and only got the baloons inflated about three quarters the way with a single breath. Ten years ago I could probably have blown a baloon till it burst so my fvc of 85% seems to indicate evacuation problems even though they are are in the normal range.

have you had a chest x ray?, mine showed "Minor scarring but with some collapse". The doctor says it should not get worse if I don't smoke. OMG how I've checked for symptoms on the internet for pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema/copd you name it. I know it sounds demented but I just don't feel that I'm ok yet. My fvc/fev1 ratio was 97%.Peak flow 100%., which rules out asthma.


I dont really know about all the fev figures etc.

I've had chest x-rays and been told they're clear.

I've got an awful consultant though. First appt he told me my probs are due to poorly controlled asthma and the second one he said my probs are due to hyperventilation!

He also said that the many chest infections wee not infections but viruses.

My GPs are excellent, they wouldnt be diagnosing infections, pneumonias lightly. The GP also said that there has to be some lung damage after 5 pneumonias + many infections. I dont get it and a bit fed up.

Grrrr, next cons apt on Wednesday but I'll be trying to make an appt with someone else instead .

Just tested the oximeter - it was 97 at rest so took one long deep breath & it went up to 98 then 99 straight away.

I bought an 'UltraBreath' device to exersise my lungs to build up their strengh (just need to actually use it), it's very good though.

I guess if you dont have asthma then your lack of puff will be down to the smoking - well done for giving it up!


Hi, I think the best thing to do is to always take it in the same situation, i.e. sitting down relaxed and for the same length of time, i.e. when the reading first "settles". And then don't take it again shortly afterwards, leave it until at least the next day. That way, you should be able to get an average. As I said, it's never left on my finger more than a minute, probably not even more than 30 secs and, looking at my chart, varies between 93% and 98%, which is considered good. If I had my own oximeter I'd probably be like you, using it too often. As it is, it only gets taken every 3 - 4 weeks and is not something I think about in between. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing! Same with my blood pressure, as it tends to be high these days (I do have medication for it) II'd probably be taking it every day if I could but again, it's only every 3 - 4 weeks when the nurse comes. Libby


thanks libby

bthe way - my home oximeter only cost me £28 through amazon. Honest to god, I urge you to conseder invesing in one, even though there is a wee risk of becoming obsessed, in the short term, with oxygen saturation stats.

It's a good sign that your nurse seems ok with taking your oximetre reading after just a minute or so. Nurses nowadays , paricularly graduate or specialist nurses, really know what they are doing and have the professional nous of - almost - a doctor. I'm greatly encouraged by your responses thanks.

But I have a natural caution about being blase about this matter of my recent test results. After all I went to the doctor in the first place because of nocturnal wheezing (I was a smoker of forty years until a month ago) so something wrong was definately going on or I would not have bothered being unmanly enough as to go to my GP. I am glad that she seems to have ruled out copd/emphysema .Glad too that she found that my notions of it being unmanly to go to her as amusing . Anyhoo - I am now where I am, and that is , knowing that something is manifesting itself for the worse as far as my lungs are concerned, and it is better now to be committed to smoking cessation.

Vis a vis your high blood pressure, I hope I'm not too presumptious to suggest that you consider eating a banan or two a day as they are high in potassium and absorb salt, a driver in raising blood pressure, also fish oil.

I am not a green nut, altough I have liked most people who are, but just say this as I know that foods sometimes help with high b.p


I do eat fairly healthily and never add salt to anything. The bp is more related to my immobility I think, one of the newer side effects of having copd to raise its ugly head, along with depression and severe copd related anxiety. Yes, you must never smoke again with your vital signs being so good it would be a tragedy to carry on smoking and end up like a lot of us, you have everything going for you at the moment. Libby


thank you libby for your generosity of spirit in taking the time to consider what is going on with other people like myself. I had to wrestle with myself not to take a cigarette today and your message has stopped me doing that. Smoking is such an insidious addiction. Thank you


Not at all, that's what we're here for, to help and support and to gain information too. Good luck with the cigs, after a week or two you will wonder why you ever smoked. Cigs pretend they're your best friend, but they're your worst enemy. Get rid! I used nicotine lozenges, people on here have used everything going. Why not ask the question as to who's used what and how they managed? You'll get a lot of replies I'm sure. Libby