A CO-oximeter is a device for detecting hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency at the tissue level.
The device measures absorption at several wavelengths to distinguish oxyhemoglobin from carboxyhemoglobin and determine the oxyhemoglobin saturation: the percentage of oxygenated Hemoglobin compared to the total amount of hemoglobin (Hb), including carboxyhemoglobin (carboxy-Hb), Methemoglobin (met-Hb), oxyhemoglobin (oxy-Hb), and reduced Hb. When a patient presents with carbon monoxide poisoning (CO), the CO-oximeter will detect the levels of each hemoglobin and will report the oxyhemoglobin saturation as markedly reduced.
Traditionally, this measurement is made from arterial blood processed in a blood gas analyzer with a CO-oximeter. More recently, pulse CO-oximeters have made it possible to estimate carboxyhemoglobin with non-invasive technology similar to a Pulse oximeter. In contrast, the use of a standard pulse oximeter is not effective in the diagnosis of CO poisoning as patients suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning may have a normal oxygen saturation reading on a pulse oximeter.
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