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In vivo investigation of ear canal pulse oximetry during hypothermia

Budidha, K. & Kyriacou, P. A. (2017). In vivo investigation of ear canal pulse oximetry during hypothermia. Journal of Clinical Monitoring and Computing, doi: 10.1007/s10877-017-9975-4


Pulse oximeters rely on the technique of photoplethysmography (PPG) to estimate arterial oxygen saturation (SpO(Formula presented.)). In conditions of poor peripheral perfusion such as hypotension, hypothermia, and vasoconstriction, the PPG signals detected are often weak and noisy, or in some cases unobtainable. Hence, pulse oximeters produce erroneous SpO(Formula presented.) readings in these circumstances. The problem arises as most commercial pulse oximeter probes are designed to be attached to peripheral sites such as the finger or toe, which are easily affected by vasoconstriction. In order to overcome this problem, the ear canal was investigated as an alternative site for measuring reliable SpO(Formula presented.) on the hypothesis that blood flow to this central site is preferentially preserved. A novel miniature ear canal PPG sensor was developed along with a state of the art PPG processing unit to investigate PPG measurements from the bottom surface of the ear canal. An in vivo study was carried out in 15 healthy volunteers to validate the developed technology. In this comparative study, red and infrared PPGs were acquired from the ear canal and the finger of the volunteers, whilst they were undergoing artificially induced hypothermia by means of cold exposure (10 (Formula presented.)C). Normalised Pulse Amplitude (NPA) and SpO(Formula presented.) was calculated from the PPG signals acquired from the ear canal and the finger. Good quality baseline PPG signals with high signal-to-noise ratio were obtained from both the PPG sensors. During cold exposure, significant differences were observed in the NPA of the finger PPGs. The mean NPA of the red and infrared PPGs from the finger have dropped by >80%. Contrary to the finger, the mean NPA of red and infrared ear canal PPGs had dropped only by 0.2 and 13% respectively. The SpO(Formula presented.)s estimated from the finger sensor have dropped below 90% in five volunteers (failure) by the end of the cold exposure. The ear canal sensor, on the other hand, had only failed in one volunteer. These results strongly suggest that the ear canal may be used as a suitable alternative site for monitoring PPGs and arterial blood oxygen saturation at times were peripheral perfusion is compromised.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Ear canal, Hypothermia, Photoplethysmography, Pulse oximetry
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Engineering
[thumbnail of art%3A10.1007%2Fs10877-017-9975-4.pdf]
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Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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