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University of Pennsylvania scientists: Pulse oximeters may be useless for COVID-19

US scientists have said using a pulse oximeter (a device to measure blood oxygen levels) is unnecessary and no more effective than simply asking COVID-19 patients if they are short of breath. A study by doctors from the University of Pennsylvania is published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

These devices began to be used at the start of the pandemic due to fears that coronavirus patients might notice a dangerous drop in blood oxygen levels. Scientists conducted a study in which they tracked the health indicators of more than two thousand patients. Twice a day, they automatically received messages asking them how they felt, if they were short of breath.

The surveillance program alone reduced mortality by 68%. But using pulse oximeters alone hasn’t saved more lives or even relieved anxious patients. At the start of the pandemic, many specialists paid attention to these devices and recommended them to their patients. However, research has shown that there may be no real benefit to using pulse oximeters.

On February 20, information appeared that a team of specialists from the University Sao Paulo V Brazil learned detect coronavirus by tear samples. The method was tested on 61 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The study authors also used the Schirmer test, in which a strip of special paper is placed inside the lower eyelid for five minutes.

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