Frequently Asked Questions for Probes and Finger Sensors

The list below of frequently asked questions and troubleshooting problems for finger probes and sensors is based on our own experience and information compiled from The Nellcor Sensor Selection Guide, published by Mallinckrodt, 1999.

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Are you the manufacturer of any of the probes on this website?
No, we are a dealer and repair service center.

Do you sell or repair finger probes, pulse oximetry probes and sensors?
We repair most models of probes--see our Probe Repair page. We also sell refurbished probes, and new probes by Nellcor, Palco, BCI, Nonin, and Ohmeda.

Do you take Medicare for repairs or sales of probes or finger sensors?
No, we are not set up to deal with Medicare or other insurance companies. We accept payment by credit card and check, and can itemize bills for you to submit to your company.

Can you repair the Hewlett Packard Finger Probes with the rubber ends?
Yes, we repair them. However, we charge $85 per HP probes, instead of our standard rate of $49 each.

Do you repair Toco Transducers or Hewlett Packard Ultrasonic Probes?
Yes, although we cannot give a fixed estimate until we have seen the extent of the damage. The price for one ultrasonic probe repair ranges from $315-$590. Please send in your equipment and we will call with an estimate.

How often do I need to send in my probes for repair or service?
A probe only needs to be repaired if it breaks... However, every probe should be checked at least once a year to be sure it is reading accurately and does not need to be calibrated. You should send your probes for this check in to an authorized service center (such as us).

Can I purchase a probe from you with a different length cord?
In most cases, it is possible to purchase a different length--for example, the Nellcor DS100-A comes with a standard eight-foot cord, but we could sell a six-foot cord for the same price.

Tips for Optimal Use of Pulse Oximetry Sensors:

  • Ensure the optical components of the sensors are properly aligned as showed in the operating instructions.
  • Check adhesive sensor sites at least every 8 hours and move to a new site as necessary. Reusable sensors must be moved to a new site at last every 4 hours.
  • Adhesive finger sensors may be reused on the same patient, as long as the adhesive portion sticks without slipping. Replace the sensor when the adhesive quality wears off.
  • Clean reusable sensors between patients. Refer to directions for use.
  • When selecting a sensor site, give priority to extremities free of arterial catheters, blood pressure cuffs, or intravascular infusion lines.
  • I am getting a poor or unreliable reading because of motion:
    Move the sensor to a less active site or replace adhesive. Adjust averaging time on the pulse oximeter if possible. If a patient is not on a vent or in a supine or Trendelenburg position, place reflectance sensor on the forehead.

    I am getting an unreliable reading because of perfusion:
    Use an adhesive finger sensor or apply a nasal sensor if the patient is immpbile. Protect sensor site from heat loss or rewarm as permitted by hospital policy.

    My reading is complicated by venous pulsation:
    Position finger sensor at heart level. Avoid restrictive taping. Be careful when intrepreting Sp02 values for patients with elevated venous pressure.

    What should I do if my patient has edema:
    Position the sensor on nonedematous appliction sites. Otherwise, the fluid in the edematous tissue may cause the light from the LEDs to scatter and distort the Sp02 readings.

    Light interference is causing poor or unreliable readings:
    Cover the sensor with an opaque material in the presence of bright light sources, including direct sunlight, surgical lamps, infrared warming lamps, and phototherapy lights.

    Can nail polish interfere with my readings?
    Yes. Remove nail polish (especially brown, blue, green) or apply finger sensor to an unpolished site.

    Do intravascular dyes interfere with readings?
    Yes. Use care when interpreting Sp02 values after injection of intravascular dyes, which may affect the reading.

    How do elevated dyshemoglobins compromise readings?
    Dysfunctional hemoglobins such as carboxyhemoglobin, methemoglobin, or sulphhemoglobin are unable to carry oxygen. However, Sp02 values only report functional saturation--oxygenated hemoglobin as a percentage of functional hemoglobin. Therefore, although the Sp02 values reported by a pulse oximeter may appear normal when dysfunctional hemoglobisn are elevated, oxygenation may be compromised due to decreased arterial oxygen content. A more complete assessment of oxygenation beyond pulse oximetry is recommended whenever dysfunctional hemoglobins are suspected.

    How does anemia affect readings?
    Anemia causes decreased arterial oxygen content by reducing the number of hemoglobins that are available to carry oxygen. Although Sp02 percentages mayb be in the "normal" range, an anemic patient may be hypoxic due to reduced hemoglobin levels. The pulse oximeter may fail to provide an Sp02 reading if hemoglobin levels fall below 5 gm/dl. Correcting anemia can improve arterial oxygen content.

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