People expect that if something unexpected occurs, the best place to be is in the hospital. Regrettably, hospitals fail to implement policies and procedures to assure patients at risk are carefully monitored and alerts heeded in a timely manner. Warning signs are ignored. Caregivers fail to do their jobs. Emergency help which should be only seconds away, never arrives.
Doctors and nurses caring for patients in the hospital must listen for and respond as soon as possible to alarms from monitors which measure and display heart rate and oxygen saturation in real-time. Two commonly used monitors are the electrocardiogram (EKG) and pulse oximetry machines.
An EKG machine measures the electrical activity of the heart tissue through electrodes attached to the patient’s body. EKG monitoring in a hospital setting is used to diagnose complex heart arrhythmias, myocardial ischemia, myocardial infarction and other abnormalities in the electrical conduction of the heart. Also, EKG monitoring may be indicated for patients who are experiencing symptoms of heart or lung disease.
The pulse oximeter is another monitor frequently used for patients in the hospital setting. A pulse oximeter measures the level of hemoglobin in the body, a protein which carries oxygen through blood. The measurement is made through red and infrared light emitted from a probe or sensor attached to a patient’s finger. The saturation of hemoglobin in the blood is displayed as a percentage, normally at or above 94%. Measurement of blood oxygen saturation is common in the critical care setting, and indicated for a variety of respiratory or lung related ailments, including obstructive sleep apnea and pneumonia.
To learn more about why heart monitoring and oxygen monitoring are so important for the lives of patients in hospitals, read The Duty to Monitor for Cardiac or Respiratory Arrest.