Hypoxemia is a condition that occurs when the levels of oxygen in a person’s blood falls below normal. Hypoxemia is a serious condition that may be caused by breathing or circulation problems, or as the result of anesthesia administered during surgery. One of the most obvious symptoms of hypoxemia is shortness of breath, though confusion and nausea may also be present.
For our bodies to function normally, it is important that your bloodstream is able to supply the farthest reaches of your body with oxygen-rich blood in order to support its function. If your blood oxygen levels are too low, it can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Patients who have received general anesthesia during surgery have often been shown to be hypoxemic when they return to their recovery room. This makes it essential for your child’s doctor to monitor their blood oxygen saturation before, during, and following any procedure that requires anesthesia.
Aside from anesthesia administration, there are many other conditions that can cause or contribute to hypoxemia. Anemia, asthma, congenital heart defects, pneumonia, emphysema, lung disease, and sleep apnea are some of the more common medical problems that can contribute to lowered oxygen saturation in the blood. In order to diagnose hypoxemia, a blood sample will need to be taken from an artery. However, an estimate of your blood’s oxygen saturation can be determined using a simple device that clips onto the finger called a pulse oximeter. This is a great and non-invasive way for your doctor to monitor your child’s blood oxygen levels without having to stress them out with a blood draw.
Pulse oximeters have been proven as a reliable and safe method for your child’s pediatrician to monitor their blood oxygen levels. A pulse oximeter will monitor peripheral oxygen saturation by passing two different wavelengths of light through a thin part of the body (typically a finger, though earlobes may also be used) into a photodetector that will analyze the information to determine oxygen saturation levels. Pulse oximetry is a perfect first step toward monitoring your child’s blood oxygen levels in that it allows your pediatrician to see what their oxygen saturation looks like without requiring an invasive blood draw to check for arterial oxygen saturation.
If your child’s pediatrician decides they need a more in-depth look at your child’s blood oxygen saturation, they may order an arterial blood gas test. A blood gas test is much the same as a typical blood analysis, except in this case the blood is obtained from an artery instead of a vein. For a blood gas test to be accurate, the sample must be analyzed within the first 10 minutes of the blood draw. Because of this, samples are often analyzed via a portable machine, though samples may also be taken to an onsite laboratory. The blood gas test can determine how efficiently your child’s body is able to move oxygen into the bloodstream and deliver it to other parts of the body. It will also provide your pediatrician with information about how well carbon dioxide is removed from the blood by your child’s lungs.
Ensuring your child’s body has normal values of oxygen saturation in the blood is an important aspect of their total-body health. Whether hypoxemia is the result of anesthesia or another medical condition, the experienced doctors and nurses at Pediatrics of Long Island can monitor your child’s blood oxygen levels to make sure they are healthy.