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The Food and Drug Administration is under pressure from attorneys general to update guidance on pulse oximeters to take into account the risk for inaccurate readings when the devices are used for patients with darker skin tones. Pulse oximeters can overestimate blood oxygen levels for patients with darker skin, and research demonstrating the relationship between skin tone and oximeter readings dates back as far as 2005. Proposed updates include options such as warning labels and use of the Monk Skin Tone Scale. Samia Kadri, a family nurse practitioner at Banner Health Urgent Care, recently told Cronkite News that urgent care clinicians should measure blood oxygen levels with a pulse oximeter for every patient when collecting vitals. She noted that even nail polish and body temperature can also result in inaccurate readings.

What now? FDA plans to gather more feedback and meet with independent experts, but according to STAT News, there is no timeline for when that will happen. Read more from the JUCM archive: Skewed Pulse Oximeter Readings Delayed Care For Patients With Darker Skin

Accuracy of Pulse Oximeters Needs a Second Look