Thinking Out-of-the-Box: A Non-Standard Application of Standard Pulse-Oximetry and Standard Near-Infrared Spectroscopy in a COVID-19 Patient

Patrick Schober, Erik J. Lust, Leo M.A. Heunks, Lothar A. Schwarte*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: Purpose of this report is to describe the feasibility of lingual pulse oximetry and lingual near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) in a COVID-19 patient to assess lingual tissue viability after several days of mechanical ventilation in the prone position. Materials & Methods: In a COVID-19 ICU-patient, the tongue became grotesquely swollen, hardened and protruding from the oral cavity after 20 h of mechanical ventilation uninterrupted in the prone position. To assess the doubtful viability of the tongue, pulse-oximetric hemoglobin O2-saturation (SpO2; Nellcor, OxiMax MAX-NI, Covidien, MA, USA) and NIRS-based, regional tissue O2-saturation measurements (rSO2; SenSmart, Nonin, MN, USA) were performed at the tongue. Results: At the tongue, regular pulse-oximetric waveforms with a pulse-oximetric hemoglobin O2-saturation (SpO2) of 88% were recorded, i.e. only slightly lower than the SpO2 reading at the extremities at that time (90%). Lingual NIRS-based rSO2 measurements yielded stable tissue rSO2-values of 76-78%, i.e. values expected also in other adequately perfused and oxygenated (muscle-) tissues. Conclusion: Despite the alarming, clinical finding of a grotesquely swollen, rubber-hard tongue and clinical concerns on the adequacy of the tongue perfusion and oxygenation, our measurements of both arterial pulsatility (SpO2) and NIRS-based tissue oxygenation (rSO2) suggested adequate perfusion and oxygenation of the tongue, rendering non-vitality of the tongue, e.g. by lingual venous thrombosis, unlikely. To our knowledge, this is the first clinical report of lingual rSO2 measurement.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Intensive Care Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

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