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Blood Test Catches Secret Smokers
Date:10/22/2007

Levels of carbon monoxide a giveaway, researcher says,,

MONDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) -- If you're sneaking smokes when no one's looking, beware: One lung doctor says a common device can determine whether someone is a smoker.

The blood carbon monoxide detector could be used to ferret out people who hide a cigarette habit, said pulmonologist Dr. Sridhar Reddy. It could also help show patients what smoking is doing to their bodies, he added.

"It starts a conversation to make people more and more aware of what smoking can do to them and to give them more information about why they should quit, instead of a boring sermon every time," said Reddy, who works in St. Clair, Mich.

There are already ways to detect whether someone is a smoker, according to Reddy. Doctors can test a person's breath, blood or saliva.

But none of the methods is very convenient, Reddy said, so he decided to take a look at another device.

Anyone who has been in a hospital recently is probably familiar with the pulse oximeter, a device that's placed over the fingertip and measures oxygen levels in the blood by passing light waves into the skin.

Reddy tested an oximeter that also measures carbon monoxide levels in the blood. It's typically used on firefighters and others who have been exposed to smoke.

With the help of his 16-year-old son, Ashray, who assisted as part of a science project, Reddy tested the device on 476 patients to see how well it did at picking up smokers, who develop high levels of carbon monoxide in their blood.

The device, which Reddy said costs $4,000-$5,000, measures the level of carbon monoxide in hemoglobin. It accurately spotted up 95 percent of all smokers when Reddy looked only at those who had a 6 percent or higher level of carbon monoxide.

The device doesn't detect every smoker, nor is it perfect when it does suggest that someone smokes. Still, Reddy
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