Topic: Covid: How a £20 gadget could save lives
One of the mysteries of Covid-19 is why oxygen levels in the blood can drop to dangerously low levels without the patient noticing.
It is known as “silent hypoxia”.
As a result, patients have been arriving in hospital in far worse health than they realised and, in some cases, too late to treat effectively.
But a potentially life-saving solution, in the form of a pulse oximeter, allows patients to monitor their oxygen levels at home, and costs about £20.
They are being rolled out for high-risk Covid patients in the UK, and the doctor leading the scheme thinks everyone should consider buying one.
A normal oxygen level in the blood is between 95% and 100%.
“With Covid, we were admitting patients with oxygen levels in the 70s or low-or-middle 80s,” said Dr Matt Inada-Kim, a consultant in acute medicine at Hampshire Hospitals.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health: “It was a really curious and scary presentation and really made us rethink what we were doing.”
Dr Inada-Kim became the national clinical lead of the Covid Oximetry@home project.
A pulse oximeter slips over your middle finger and shines a light into the body. It measures how much of the light is absorbed in order to calculate oxygen levels in the blood.
In England, they are being given to people with Covid who are over 65, younger but have a health problem, or anyone doctors are concerned about. Similar schemes are being rolled out across the UK.
People measure and record their oxygen levels three times a day.
If oxygen levels drop to 93% or 94%, then people speak to their GP or call 111. If they go below 92%, people should go to A&E or call 999 for an ambulance.
Studies, which have not been reviewed by other scientists, have shown even small drops below 95% are linked to an increased risk of dying.
Dr Inada-Kim said: “The point of this whole strategy is to try to get in early to prevent people getting that sick, by admitting patients at a more salvageable point in their illness.”
Topic Discussed: Covid: How a £20 gadget could save lives