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An easy to handle graphic interface to control a low cost pulse oximetry system Electronic Letters

Oxímetro de Pulso

Rodrigo Chaves Alcoba

Ana Pozo Ruz
Dpto. Tecnología Electrónica, Universidad de Málaga (Spain)

Abstract from the computer, the red and infrared LEDs control is
Pulse oximetry is a non invasive method of carried out alternatively and periodically, using a
estimating the oxygen saturation levels of patients blood broadband photodetector for detecting the signal. The
(SpO2), that allows obtaining information on real time signal conditioning in the analog stage is performed by a
about the cardiorespiratory fitness. Its implementation is current-voltage converter, and a second order
essential in modern medicine, specially in Butterworth low pass filter at 7.3Hz to eliminate high
anesthesiology, operating and intensive care [1],[2], frequencies. The samples acquired by the microcontroller
with the objective of monitoring patient's oxygenation are sent by RS232 communication to the computer until
and determining the respiratory conditions. The modern completing 5 seconds of physiological information.
techniques of oximetry are based on the analyze of the
light absorption properties of hemoglobin whom
fundamentals are given by Beer-Lambert Law [3].
In this article it is presented a simple structure of a
developed pulse oximetry system for monitoring non
invasively the respiratory status. In this regard, the
system provides information about the oxygen
concentration, the heart rate and displays the oximetry
waveform obtained (useful in the absence of
electrocardiograph), which adds additional details for
the hemodynamic following. The system interface is
presented on a graphic environment simple and intuitive
to use, in which it is possible to configure the digital
filtering, introduce patient information, program Fig. 1 – Block diagram of the pulse oximetry model
automatic measurements or compare and contrast the To process the information in the PC, an application
results with previous values. under Labview has been developed to confer the interface
The developed system is a low-cost alternative that for monitoring and the results of the measurements:
can be easily replicated, facilitating its use and SpO2, the heart rate and the pulse oximetry waveform.
expansion into new areas.
5. The pulse oximetry system
Key Words: data acquisition, microcontroller,
oximetry, signal processing Fig.2 shows the aspect of the measurement probe, the
______________________________________________ MBS and its serial connection to the PC. This element is
responsible for the interaction with the patient, in order
1. The structure of the developed system to monitor the cardiorespiratory fitness. With this
purpose, the application offers two alternatives modes of
The oximetry system is composed by two different operation: A normal mode in which measurement are
components: a microcontroller based system (MBS) that performed under request; and an automatic mode that
acquire data from patient and a personal computer (PC), allows programming measurements on defined time
which processes the information and obtains the result of intervals. Thanks to this degree of automation, it is not
the measurement (Fig.1). necessary to send manually the order of taking
The MBS is responsible for controlling the probe measurements to the system, giving the operator the
connected to the patient, in order to manage the switches chance to perform other duties in the meantime
of the red and infrared LEDs for the measuring. Once the
physiological signal has been conditioned in the analog
stage, the microcontroller is able to obtain the samples.
For this task, a microcontroller PIC16F876 (10-bit ADC
resolution) [4] from the PIC family has been chosen.
Once that the measuring command has been received

An easy to handle graphic interface to control a low cost pulse oximetry system Electronic Letters

102.286  Ros - 5.714 ; 0.4  Ros  1.102 
SpO2   
- 15.556  Ros  113.11; 1.102  Ros  2 
7. Validation and Results
After the system development a comparison with the
comercial model was performed for validating the
designed oximetry, with the resumed results showed in
Fig. 2 – Pulse oximetry system the following table.
The control panel developed on Labview which Designed Oximeter Commercial Oximeter
manages the hole system is showed in Fig. 3. In that way SpO2 LPM SpO2 LPM
once that a measurements has been taken, the following 96% 61 98% 59
information is provided for monitoring: 96% 55 98% 58
 Measurement of SpO2 index 98% 56 99% 57
 Heart rate 98% 57 99% 57
 Waveform representation for the hemodynamic 97% 52 99% 57
following – Comparison with a commercial oximeter
Table 1
 Historical results Once that this process was completed the results of the
design were satisfying, but a greater stability was
registered in the comercial oximeter. On ten minutes of
time, a maximum difference of 2% was observed for the
oxygen concentration levels and 5 beats per minute for
the heart rate between systems. However, it was not
posible to contrast the measurements in low oxygen
saturation levels due to the risk and the restrictions of
working in these conditions without a medical team.
8. Conclusions
For monitoring patients respiratory conditions, a pulse
oximetry system has been developed with an estimated
Fig. 3 – Graphic interface of the system
cost of 35,00 €, versus 55,00 € - 70,00 € from a
6. Calibration Process commercial model [6]. Thus, through an simple design,
it sets out a low cost alternative system to follow up some
It should consider that the Beer-Lambert law provides of patient´s vital signs in low-resource regions, with a
a lineal model which is an approximation of the reality, model that can be easily replicated. In addition to this, to
and does not take into account phenomenons like facilitate the task of monitoring to the operators, an easy
dispersion effects or other kinds of hemoglobin which are to handle graphic interface has been provided, which
present in blood too. allows setting up the digital filtering, introducing
In order to compensate those deviations, a calibration patient’s information, programming automatic
process was performed by using the pulse oximeter measurements or comparing the current measurement
included in the portatil defibrillator Lifepak20 from with previous values.
Medtronic, which was provided by the Arrythmia Unit of This model is open to future developments, with the
the Hospital Virgen de la Victoria from Málaga (Spain). view of integrating the existing design with other
After constrasting the “ratio of ratios” (Ros) obtained by medical devices as tensiometers or electrocardiograms, to
the designed device with the SpO 2 index provided by the be managed under a PC with a similar software
commercial model, the calibration curve of the system application
was completed. The SpO2 results acquired during the last
operations were between 99% and 96%. Because of the References:
lack of resources for working safety in low oxygen [1] ÁLVAREZ RÍOS - “Programa de actualización continua
saturation levels, the remaining values of the calibration para anestesia” – Available on:
process were calculated theoretically thus an alternative
[2] SCOPE - “Fisiología pulmonar y anestesia en el paciente
calibration graph, expressing the SpO 2 as a function of crítico” - Programa de Especialidades Médicas, 2005
Ros [5].
[3] NEIL TOWNSEND, “Pulse Oximetry Notes”, Medical
Electronics 2001

An easy to handle graphic interface to control a low cost pulse oximetry system Electronic Letters

[4] “PIC16F87X datasheet” –

[5] WEBSTER J C – “Design of Pulse Oximeter” - New York:
Taylor & Francis Group, 1997
[6] PRICING INFORMATION: Commercial Oximeter –
Available on: (15/Aug/2011)