Pulse oximetry is a method of determining oxygen saturation or the percentage of hemoglobin in arterial blood that is saturated with oxygen. It can be used to check pulmonary function, or how well lungs are functioning, in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung conditions.
When you have COPD, your healthcare provider might use pulse oximetry to determine whether supplemental oxygen is needed, and how much. When your condition suddenly worsens, your doctor may use pulse oximetry to decide whether you need to be hospitalized. Pulse oximetry can provide useful information in a variety of situations and conditions as well. During or after sedation for surgery, an anesthesiologist might use pulse oximetry to monitor your blood oxygen levels. In addition, pulse oximetry can be used to detect when a person's breathing stops during sleep apnea.