FDA panel calls for improved pulse oximeters, highlighting racial disparity

Experts say pulse oximeters are less accurate when used on darker skin, prompting calls for improvements in the devices.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, pulse oximeters have been a common tool to measure blood oxygen levels through patients’ fingertips. However, experts at the Food and Drug Administration are now calling for changes to the devices based on growing evidence that they’re less accurate when used on darker skin.

The agency held a panel to discuss the issue this week, flagging yet another health disparity in need of attention. Experts on the panel called on the agency to improve how it tests the devices, as well as to apply better labeling to raise awareness about potential inaccuracies.