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J Clin Monit Comput. 2012 Feb;26(1):45-51. doi: 10.1007/s10877-011-9332-y. Epub 2012 Jan 10.

Developing an algorithm for pulse oximetry derived respiratory rate (RR(oxi)): a healthy volunteer study.

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Advanced Research Group, Covidien Respiratory and Monitoring Solutions, Technopole Centre, Edinburgh, EH26 0PJ, UK.



The presence of respiratory information within the pulse oximeter signal (PPG) is a well-documented phenomenon. However, extracting this information for the purpose of continuously monitoring respiratory rate requires: (1) the recognition of the multi-faceted manifestations of respiratory modulation components within the PPG and the complex interactions among them; (2) the implementation of appropriate advanced signal processing techniques to take full advantage of this information; and (3) the post-processing infrastructure to deliver a clinically useful reported respiratory rate to the end user. A holistic algorithmic approach to the problem is therefore required. We have developed the RR(OXI) algorithm based on this principle and its performance on healthy subject trial data is described herein.


Finger PPGs were collected from a cohort of 139 healthy adult volunteers monitored during free breathing over an 8-min period. These were subsequently processed using a novel in-house algorithm based on continuous wavelet transform technology within an infrastructure incorporating weighted averaging and logical decision making processes. The computed oximeter respiratory rates (RR(oxi)) were then compared to an end-tidal CO2 reference rate RR(ETCO2).


RR(ETCO2) ranged from a lowest recorded value of 2.97 breaths per min (br/min) to a highest value of 28.02 br/min. The mean rate was 14.49 br/min with standard deviation of 4.36 br/min. Excellent agreement was found between RR(oxi) and RR(ETCO2), with a mean difference of -0.23 br/min and standard deviation of 1.14 br/min. The two measures are tightly spread around the line of agreement with a strong correlation observable between them (R2 = 0.93).


These data indicate that RR(oxi) represents a viable technology for the measurement of respiratory rate of healthy individuals.

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