Pulse oximeters are ubiquitous in modern medicine to noninvasively measure the percentage of oxygenated hemoglobin in a patient's blood by comparing the transmission characteristics of red and infrared light-emitting diode light through the patient's finger with a photoreceptor. We present an analog single-chip pulse oximeter with 4.8-mW total power dissipation, which is an order of magnitude below our measurements on commercial implementations. The majority of this power reduction is due to the use of a novel logarithmic transimpedance amplifier with inherent contrast sensitivity, distributed amplification, unilateralization, and automatic loop gain control. The transimpedance amplifier, together with a photodiode current source, form a high-performance photoreceptor with characteristics similar to those found in nature, which allows LED power to be reduced. Therefore, our oximeter is well suited for portable medical applications, such as continuous home-care monitoring for elderly or chronic patients, emergency patient transport, remote soldier monitoring, and wireless medical sensing. Furthermore, our design obviates the need for an A-to-D and digital signal processor and leads to a small single-chip solution. We outline how extensions of our work could lead to submilliwatt oximeters.