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Vital sign monitors are varied in their capabilities. However, whether vital sign monitors are used for a single purpose or to measure all of a patient's vital signs, today's technology renders these diagnostic tools compact and accurate. A basic vital signs monitor is also highly portable, and even available for in-home use. Utilizing vital signs monitors affords knowledge of important information about a patient's health. They are vital in assessing a patient's overall condition. The more unstable a vital sign monitor shows a patient's signs to be, the more seriously ill that patient is. Typically, vital sign monitors measure a patient's main bodily functions including temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, blood pressure and lastly, blood oxygen levels.

They can be digital with manual or automatic inflation of monitoring cuffs, such as digital portable finger blood pressure monitors with automatic inflation.

Basic vital sign monitor features include the ability to measure pulse, body temperature, breathing, and blood oxygen. Each monitor is able to display information about heart and pulse, patient's blood oxygenation and blood pressure levels. Today's monitors include features that enable health care providers to enter patient identification and other data, and connect to hospital data systems through wired or wireless connections. Another common feature is an alarm that will sound indicating any vital signs that fall outside a safe, regular range.

In addition vital sign monitor features include the ability to read and deliver information on heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen saturation. Certain advanced multipurpose monitors also have features that display ECG signal, temperature, respiration, and CO2 readings.

There are several main types of vital sign monitors, the spot and the ongoing, and the multipurpose each of which will have some different, typical features.

A spot vital signs monitor is used frequently in emergency situations, primarily for life saving. To that end, it needs to be easily, quickly portable and must feature a clear, easy-to-comprehend read out. Along with a clean read out, this small unit will also include an easily movable stand.

A procedure vital signs monitor is used specifically before, during or after an operation or medical procedure. While the set up is not as basic as the spot vital signs variety, this type of monitor will feature very accurate reading controls in order to obtain accurate digital read outs of blood pressure, heart, pulse, and body temperature. Many of these vital sign monitors feature wireless or direct wired connections to a hospital or clinic data center.

Lastly, multipurpose vital signs monitors have features that allow them to be used for both procedural as well as spot vital purposes.

Regardless of the type of vital sign monitor selected, common features include clean, comprehensible read outs on a patient's vital signs, easy-to-attach connections to a patient, and portability. Vital sign monitors provide versatile, essential features for all hospitals.