Pulse oximetry in outpatients with COVID-19
Hypoxemia out of proportion to respiratory effort — "silent hypoxemia" — has been reported in patients with COVID-19. Given the lack of understanding of reliable predictors of severity in patients with COVID-19 who may appear well enough to be discharged, some experts have recommended the use of outpatient pulse oximetry to identify decompensating patients.
This study included 77 outpatients (median age, 44 years) who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 in one hospital system, given pulse oximeters to take home, and ultimately diagnosed with COVID-19. Patients were instructed to record their oxygen saturation three times each day and return to the ED if the saturation was (92% or they felt they needed care.
This study only reports on a small subset of patients given oximetres, so the overall utility of this intervention in a suspected but unconfirmed COVID-19 population is unclear. However, given that 10% of these outpatients were admitted to the ICU and 2.6% had died at follow-up, pulse oximetry is an enticing low-risk intervention which seems to help identify decompensating outpatients with COVID-19.