SpO2 probes, or "saturation of peripheral oxygen probes", or simply oxygen saturation probes are widely used in hospitals and by emergency units, where nurses deal with multiple patients at the time, and therefore, the infection control considerations are important. SpO2 probes that are detachable, easily disinfected, or even disposable, play a major role.
What makes the SpO2 probes inexpensive, and therefore disposable and safe, is the fact that all the micro processing is removed from the probe. The only parts that stay with the detached probe, are the red and the infrared diode, and the light sensors. The entire electric pulsed signal transmission to the pulse oximetry probe and the collection of the readouts is performed through an electric cable that leads to the main unit, the oxygen saturation meter.
As is the case with other finger pulse oximeters, saturation of peripheral oxygen is just a relative measure of number of blood hemoglobin with oxygen attached (oxygenated) versus number of all hemoglobin in the blood. In case of doubt, such as when the SpO2 reading falls below 70%, a blood sample can be drawn and the actual absolute concentration of hemoglobin itself, as well as the relative oxygenated hemoglobing concentration. Of course, the blood drawing technique is invasive, and takes a while.
Oxygen saturation monitor is usually attached to a vital sign monitor that provides display of other vital sign data besides pulse oximetry. Finger pulse oximeter plays an important role in conjunction with a heart rate monitor, blood pressure monitor, and sometimes, the ECG monitor. A published study has found an uncanny coincidence of reduction of anesthesia deaths by 90% at the same time when pulse oximetry probe was introduced into the operating room.
Disposable SpO2 sensors are used for a single patient only and come in several sizes, from the neonatal size used for newborns up to a month old, to pediatric size for children under 20 lbs, to infant size for children below 70 lbs, and finally, adult size for patients over 70 lbs.
For more information on specific brands and models of disposable SpO2 probes, see section on pulse oximeter choices.
For info on one-piece pulse oximeter reviews, witout a detachable SpO2 probe, see section Fingertip Pulse Oximeter Types.
To find oxygen monitors and vital sign units to use with SpO2 probes, check out section Oxygen Monitors.