According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 500 people die each year in the US and an additional 15,000 end up in the emergency room from unintentional CO (carbon monoxide) exposure. Fortunately, Mount Desert Island Hospital has a new weapon against this elusive killer.
With the recent purchase of a CO Oximeter, the Hospital can detect CO levels in the patient’s blood stream without the need for sometimes painful and often time-consuming drawing of arterial blood.
“Before we had this new piece of equipment, patients with suspected CO poisoning would have to have arterial blood drawn that we would send to an outside lab,” said respiratory therapist Ray Turner. “The new piece of equipment, however, allows us to assess CO levels immediately, which allows more timely intervention.”
The new hand-held device can be quickly placed over the patient’s finger and a reading of CO level is indicated on a small screen. “The patient’s finger is simply slipped into the probe and an instant, painless measure is accomplished,” explained Turner.
This improvement in carbon monoxide detection also saves the patient the expense of the blood draw and the lab test.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is one of the leading causes of home and industrial poisoning. Symptoms of CO poisoning can easily be misdiagnosed as the flu, food poisoning or even motion sickness.
At low concentrations, CO poisoning can cause fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, it can cause impaired vision and coordination, headaches, dizziness, confusion and nausea, and can be fatal.
Sources of CO can include unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, leaking chimneys and furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces, gas stoves, generators and other gasoline powered equipment, and automobile exhaust from attached garages.
“By making this new device available, we are ensuring a more patient-friendly experience at MDI Hospital,” said Turner. “This new device provides our patients with a pain free test that will ensure faster results and quicker access to treatment. It’s another example of our commitment to treat people as patients while supporting them as friends.”