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What causes rise in oxygen levels when the pulse drops?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 1980
Answered : 1 Question
I am on Oxygen to treat moderate COPD and I monitor my oxygen levels with a pulsoximeter. I have noticed that when my pulse drops down around 65, my oxygen level rises to the 90's, also vice versa, if my oxygen levels are low 80's my pulse is usually racing at 120 or higher. What could cause this?
Posted Sat, 16 Aug 2014 in Lung and Chest disorders
Answered by Dr. Rahul Tawde 3 hours later
Brief Answer:
Hypoxia induced tachycardia

Detailed Answer:
Hi XXXXXX, thanks for posting your concern in the HCM.
You have noticed the very natural physiologic response of the body to hypoxia. Simply speaking, when the concentration of oxygen in your blood declines you develop hypoxia. There are several complex autonomic mechanisms that regulate the heart rate & pumping activity of the heart. Even the response is more complex in the presence of varying CO2 levels in the blood, which COPD patients usually have. The general response to hypoxia is increase in the heart rate to produce compensatory hyperdynamic circulation, so that the tissues in your body gets adequate oxygen. With increasing heart rate, the pumping ability of the heart is compromised, producing reduced ejection of blood, which in turn creates a vicious cycle, ultimately leading to decompensated heart failure.
In a patient with moderate COPD, my recommendation is to keep the oxygen saturation level around 90-92%. Both, excess and reduced O2 supply are dangerous in COPD patients.
Care should be taken to avoid CO2 retention or CO2 washout as well.
Long term oxygen therapy may be required for moderate to severe COPD patients. However, you should consult your chest physician for regular follow up, to avoid development of fatal complications like cor pulmonale.
You should also take care of your health and take adequate protection during change of season, to avoid common cold and cough, for they may cause acute exacerbation of your COPD.
And lastly, I can reassure you that the response you observed in the presence of low blood O2 is a normal compensatory mechanism of your body. So, don't worry.
Hope, I have successfully answered your query. For any further information, feel free to write back. If you are satisfied with the answer, please mark it as helpful.
Dr. Kaushik Sarkar
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