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Pulse oximetry is a well-established, noninvasive photoplethysmographic method to monitor vital signs. It allows us to measure cardiovascular parameters, such as heart rate and arterial oxygen saturation, and is considered an essential monitoring tool in clinical routine. However, since many of the conventional systems work in transmission mode, they can only be applied to the thinner or peripheral parts of the body, such as a finger tip. This has the major disadvantage that, in case of shock-induced centralization and a resulting drop in perfusion, such systems cannot ensure valid measurements. Therefore, we developed a reflective in-ear sensor system that can be worn in the ear channel like a headphone. Because the sensor is integrated in an ear mold and positioned very close to the trunk, reliable measurement is expected even in case of centralization. An additional advantage is that the sensor is comfortable to wear and has considerable resistance to motion artifacts. In this paper, we report on hypoxia studies with ten healthy participants which were performed to analyze the system with regard to the detection of heart rate and arterial oxygen saturation. It was shown earlier that, due to the high signal quality, heart rate can easily be detected. Using the conventional calculation principle, based on Beer-Lambert's law combined with a single-point calibration method, we now demonstrate that the detection of arterial oxygen saturation in the human ear canal is possible using reflective saturation sensors.
Date of Publication: July 2012