Patient safety

Pulse oximetry

Pulse oximeters are medical devices that monitor the level of oxygen in a patient's blood and alert the health-care worker if oxygen levels drop below safe levels, allowing rapid intervention. These devices are essential in any setting in which a patient's blood oxygen levels requires monitoring like operations, emergency and intensive care, and treatment and recovery in hospital wards.

WHO Patient Safety Pulse Oximetry Project

Global pulse oximetry


The goal of the Patient Safety Pulse Oximetry project is to improve the safety of anaesthesia care in operating rooms in low and middle-income countries, by testing the effect on patient outcome of providing a bundle consisting of the Surgical Safety Checklist, pulse oximeters and training in a number of pilot hospitals globally.

Pulse oximetry: training material

A large number of anaesthesia providers in low resource settings lack sufficient training about monitoring oxygen levels in the blood. WHO Patient Safety, together with the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) and others, has developed a training tool kit, consisting of a manual, a video and slide sets to improve provider response to hypoxemia. The training material can be downloaded from the following page:

Why pulse oximetry?

The Patient Safety Pulse Oximetry project aims to improve the safety of operating rooms worldwide. The Surgical Safety Checklist has been shown to reduce complications and mortality by over 30 percent. The Checklist is simple and can be completed in under 2 minutes, however, there is one component that is not currently achievable in every operating room in the world: pulse oximetry. WHO Patient Safety has worked with the Harvard School of Public Health, the WFSA, the AAGBI and many other partners around the world to facilitate the development of pulse oximetry technical standards that led to the development of a high standard, low-cost pulse oximeter.

WFSA and others are leading a charity project "lifebox", that addresses the pulse oximeter gap by making pulse oximeters available to low and middle-income countries. To learn more about this project, please follow the link below.