(HealthDay News) — Among infants presenting to an emergency department with mild to moderate bronchiolitis, hospitalization is less likely for those with an artificially elevated pulse oximetry reading, according to a study published in the August 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Suzanne Schuh, MD, from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and colleagues conducted a randomized parallel-group trial in a tertiary-care pediatric emergency department in Toronto. Two hundred thirteen otherwise healthy infants, aged 4 weeks to 12 months with mild to moderate bronchiolitis and true oxygen saturation of 88 percent or higher, were randomized to pulse oximetry measurements with true saturation values displayed or with altered values, increased 3 percentage points above true values.

The researchers found that 41% of the true oximetry group and 25% of the altered oximetry group were hospitalized within 72 hours (P=0.005). The primary treatment effect remained significant using the emergency department physicians as a random effect (adjusted odds ratio, 4.0; P=0.009). There were no significant between-group differences in the secondary outcomes. The proportion of unscheduled medical visits for bronchiolitis was 21.3% in the true oximetry group and 14.3 percent in the altered oximetry group (P=0.18).

“This suggests that oxygen saturation should not be the only factor in the decision to admit, and its use may need to be reevaluated,” the authors write.

The oximeters used in the study were provided by Masimo.

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