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Physiol Meas. 2001 Feb;22(1):223-32.

Investigation of the human oesophagus as a new monitoring site for blood oxygen saturation.

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Department of Medical Electronics and Physics, St. Bartholomew's and The Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary and Westfield College, UK.


Pulse oximeter probes placed peripherally may fail to give accurate values of arterial blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) when peripheral perfusion is poor. Since central blood flow may be preferentially preserved, the oesophagus was suggested as an alternative monitoring site. A reflectance oesophageal photoplethysmographic (PPG) probe and a multiplexed data acquisition system, operating simultaneously at two wavelengths and incorporating an external three-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) reference channel, has been developed. It has been used to investigate the suitability of the oesophagus as a possible monitoring site for SpO2 in cases of compromised peripheral perfusion. Oesophageal PPG signals and standard ECG traces were obtained from 16 anaesthetized patients and displayed on a laptop computer. Measurable PPG signals with high signal-to-noise ratios at both infrared and red wavelengths were obtained from all five oesophageal depths investigated. The maximum PPG amplitude occurred at 25 cm from the upper incisors in the mid-oesophagus. The measured pulse transit times (PTTs) to the oesophagus were consistent with previous measurements at peripheral sites and had a minimum value of 67 +/- 30 ms at a depth of 30 cm. There was broad agreement between the calculated values of oesophageal SpO2 and those from a commercial finger pulse oximeter.

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