SEP 22, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Measuring Blood Oxygen with a Smartphone Camera

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Blood oxygen saturation is important to normal healthy functions in the, particularly for lung functions. Blood oxygen levels received renewed attention as an essential vital sign during the COVID-19 pandemic, because many respiratory illnesses, COVID included, can impact our blood oxygen levels. A blood oxygen saturation level of less than 95% is a sign that our lungs, specifically, are not working as effectively as they could. Because respiratory illnesses put undue pressure on the lungs, being able to monitor blood oxygen levels is important.

Under normal circumstances, technology like pulse oximeters is used to measure blood oxygen levels, with some tools available for at home use. However, these can sometimes be cumbersome and difficult to use for some patients.

A team of researchers at the University of Washington have developed a new approach to measuring blood oxygen levels that can be done easily at home. All it takes is the camera and flash feature of a smartphone. Their work is described in a recent article published in npj Digital Medicine.

This new approach to measuring blood oxygen levels uses two distinct features: the smartphone camera and a deep learning algorithm to process the results. A user would hold the camera up to their finger and press it on the lens. Then, the flash goes off. The camera is then able to calculate how much light is absorbed by the finger. This information is then fed to the algorithm, which can then make a determination from the light absorption image what a person’s blood oxygen level is. 

With any learning algorithm, researchers needed to train the protocol to interpret the data it received. To do that, researchers had volunteers wear a traditional pulse oximeter and take measurements using the new smartphone approach to compare what each device measured. Volunteers also breathed in oxygen and nitrogen for about 15 minutes, causing a blood oxygen level drop to help both tools detect differences in levels. The algorithm was able to detect low  blood oxygen levels in roughly 80% of volunteers, a positive sign.

Researchers hope their device could lead to more effective at-home blood pressure monitoring, including for COVID-19 patients. 

Sources: Medgadget; npj Digital Medicine

About the Author
Professional Writing
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
You May Also Like
AUG 20, 2022
Space & Astronomy
NASA and ESA are Working Together to Bring Samples of Mars Back to Earth
AUG 20, 2022
NASA and ESA are Working Together to Bring Samples of Mars Back to Earth
The Mars Sample Return Campaign has been ongoing since the Perseverance rover landed at Jezero Crater on February 18, 20 ...
AUG 30, 2022
Health & Medicine
Using Wastewater Viral Loads to Predict COVID-19 Outbreaks
AUG 30, 2022
Using Wastewater Viral Loads to Predict COVID-19 Outbreaks
A study published in JAMA Network Open discovered an association between clinical cases of COVID-19 and viral loads in w ...
SEP 05, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Making Genetic Engineering at the Chromosome Level Possible
SEP 05, 2022
Making Genetic Engineering at the Chromosome Level Possible
An image by Wang Qiang shows a mouse that carries two chromosomes fused together, the first engineered karyotype in mice ...
SEP 09, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Perseverance Likes Green Sand with Red Sand
SEP 09, 2022
Perseverance Likes Green Sand with Red Sand
In an array of studies, one published in Science Advances and two published in Science, a large international team of re ...
SEP 04, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Deep Brain Stimulation Shows Promise for Binge-Eating Disorder
SEP 04, 2022
Deep Brain Stimulation Shows Promise for Binge-Eating Disorder
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) may help control symptoms of binge-eating disorder and induce weight loss. The correspondin ...
SEP 25, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
New Imaging Tools Provide Insights Into Cell Stress
SEP 25, 2022
New Imaging Tools Provide Insights Into Cell Stress
In cells, active genes are transcribed into mRNA molecules, which can be edited and processed in a variety of ways, to u ...
Loading Comments...