1. Pulse oximetry (SpO2), on average, overestimated oxygen saturation as measured by arterial blood gas CO-oximetry (SaO2) in critically ill children on full ventilator support with SpO2 below 97%.
2. SpO2 showed variable bias and precision dependent on SpO2 measurement, with inferior performance in SpO2 ranges below 91% compared with those above.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Study Rundown: Pulse oximetry (SpO2) is often used to assess oxygenation and as a surrogate for arterial blood gas CO-oximetry (SaO2) when making clinical decisions in hospitalized children. Smaller studies have previously demonstrated evidence of a bias for SpO2 in children to overestimate oxygen saturation. This study sought to add to these findings through a large multicenter trial comparing SpO2 with SaO2 in 225 children on full ventilator support. The study found that SpO2 overestimated SaO2, but variably so. SpO2 measurements were less accurate below 91% compared with above. The trial was limited by its observational format and potential selection bias due to inclusion of SpO2 and SaO2 comparisons only among children in which arterial blood gas testing was deemed necessary by the medical team. Regardless, these findings call for more information about the reliability of pulse oximetry in children, beyond the current accuracy trials performed on healthy adult volunteers, in order to better guide clinicians in the appropriate use of this clinical tool.
Relevant Reading: Pulse Oximetry in Pediatric Practice
In-Depth [prospective, observational study]: This multicenter PICU-based, prospective, observational study of 225 children, from birth to 18 years of age who were mechanically ventilated with SpO2 less than 97% garnered 1980 SpO2/SaO2 pairs for analysis. Analysis looked at bias (SpO2 – SaO2), local bias (the bias over ranges of SpO2), precision (a standard deviation above and below the mean bias) and accuracy root mean squared (Arms ,combines bias, precision, and the number of samples obtained and is reported to regulatory bodies for pulse oximetry). The study also used multivariate models to control for confounding variables such as congenital cyanotic heart disease or prolonged capillary refill. The bias between pulse oximetry and arterial blood gas was greatest when the pulse oximeter readings were between 81% and 85%, (336 samples, median 6%,mean 6.6%, Arms 9.1%). There was the least bias in readings between 91% and 97% SpO2 (901 samples, median 1%, mean 1.5%, Arms 4.2).
By Laurel Wickberg and Leah H. Carr
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