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British Lung Foundation
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Slightly confusing oxygen readings

Hi everyone, I had my oxygen review yesterday and was really surprised by readings so I thought I'd share this with you and see if anyone's had similar experience (I vaguely remember someone posting about their oxygen review recently but couldn't find the post)

So I first did the 6mins walk without my oxygen cylinder. Admittedly I walked much much slower than I would normally, the appointment was at the unearthly hour of before 12 noon (I really was tired) but oxygen levels, without the cylinder, stayed at 91 (at rest my reading was 95/96).

Then I had the break, put the cylinder on my back, 'plugged myself in', started walking and at one point, the level dropped below 90 although was mostly at 91. I walked as slow as the first time round. The physio nurse said that the reading may be (in part?) due to the additional weight of the cylinder. This bit makes sense. What was a bit odd was that, while I sat with the cylinder on my back, the oxygen levels went up to 96 and that was it, not any higher...

Has anything similar happened to anyone else on here? We discussed me trying out very gentle exertions without the cylinder and see how that goes... Argh...

Any thoughts/suggestions really appreciated

6 Replies


Surprised you are using Ambulitory oxygen, when your desaturation is 91.

Mine was 83 hence the need for oxygen. On my recent test started at 94 desaturated to 92 on six minute walk test. Recovery time was one minute 30 seconds. I use my own concentrator, which is about one and half kg less than a cylinder with bag. The level of oxygen saturation is dependent on the efficiency of your gas exchange.

My previous year was 96 start down to 92 same recovery time.

Continuing to walk will decrease the oxygen levels and increase the amount of rest required.


this is really helpful, stone-UK - when you say you started at 94, was this with oxygen or without? the very first time they measured mine was before the start of pulmonary rehab, when i walked fairly quickly and the levels dropped low enough for the pr team to refer me back to the hospital people... i wonder if perhaps, because of the exercise, the gas exchange thing's improved?

the one huge change i'd noticed since starting on ambulatory oxygen is that i don't get dizzy any longer, this was quite a problem for some six months before i started the oxygen...



That was with oxygen.

Like you my original assessment was prior to pulmonary rehabilitation. Just a short walk down a corridor, and my desaturation was 83, 2lpm got me to satisfactorily level. Since increased to 4lpm.

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My first question is where was the reading taken from? ear or finger? I have Arthritis in my hands and I can get a reading of 93 on one finger whilst 98 on another. So I tend to use what I call my good finger for all readings. Whilst exercising I tend to get variables to readings on my finger but using a ear monitor they are consistent I am just wondering if there was a problem monitoring rather than your actual 02 levels.


it was the finger reading (the machine went into error at one point so i put it on a different finger but there was no huge difference). had no idea you could have the ear readings at all, interesting


Many finger oximeters are not very accurate with movement which could account for the error. One would hope the one used in a professional environment would be a higher quality that would not be affected by movement, but perhaps not?

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