Top Five Vital Signs to Watch in Hospital
At any time a loved one enters the hospital and undergoes surgery or suffered a trauma you need to be aware of the following top five vital signs to watch:
- Sp02: This is a reading that indicates blood oxygenation. It also is referred to as “02sats” or “oxygen saturation” levels. These readings tell how much oxygen is being carried on a blood cell. You need to keep this number above 90 percent, and the closer to 100 percent the better, though it is highly unlikely to ever see 100 percent. The key is that you need to keep oxygen getting to the brain and other organs. When this number dips below 90 percent, organs-including the brain-can become oxygen-deprived. Oxygen deprivation can lead to organ failure and/or brain damage.
- Blood Pressure: BP is a measurement of the pressure being exerted by blood on the walls of blood vessels. And while most people are familiar with this reading, what most do not know is what it might be telling you after a surgery. Low blood pressure can be an indication of internal bleeding. If there is less pressure on the vessel walls, it is often times because there is less blood in the vessels. This can be a tip that there is internal bleeding. (It is worth noting that one way blood pressure is artificially raised is when fluids-not blood-are given to a patient.) So if a patient is receiving saline intravenously, but still has low blood pressure, bleeding should be considered.
- PT/PTT/INR: These readings generally evaluate blood for its ability to clot. A normal PT is in the range of 10-12 seconds. A PTT is similar in its goal, but generally focuses a bit more on the effect of medications, such as heparin, on the blood’s ability to clot. A normal PTT is in a range of 30-45 seconds. Finally, an INR is a reading used to confirm the accuracy of a PT study and to assure that the results of PTs are accurate because they can vary from lab to lab. A normal INR is in the range of 1 to 2.
- Intake & Output: The “I’s and O’s” are also significant in identifying bleeding. Intake and output refers to the fluids going in to a patient and the fluid coming out. If a patient is receiving a steady flow of fluids but isn’t urinating a proportional amount out (it will not all come out) bleeding should, again, be considered. In this case, the fluids going in might be artificially keeping the blood pressure up by making their way through the circulatory system, and not being voided.
- Creatinine/Bun: These are both reading that can indicate how well kidneys are working. Creatinine measures the amount of waste in blood and urine. BUN measures the amount of nitrogen (which comes from waste) that is in the blood. How well one’s kidneys are working can depend upon proper hydration, how well the heart is working, or can be the result of certain medications.
Unfortunately hospitals today are often under-staffed and/or staffed with inexperienced nurses, interns and residents. We cannot always leave the outcome of our loved ones solely in the hands of the hospital staff. Just like you have to be an active participant with your own health, we must all be active participants in the healthcare loved ones receive. This is particularly true when we have loved ones in hospitals following surgical procedures. By understanding these vital signs and what they might be telling us, you provide another set of eyes to watch over and protect your families.