Do you have a heart condition or a suspected one like the innumerable other people in America? Then you may have heard of a Holter monitor, or your doctor may have suggested wearing one. It is a small, portable device that continuously records your heart’s activity for 24 to 48 hours. This information can help your doctor diagnose and treat any heart problems you may have. Using a Holter monitor is an easy and painless way to pick up on any abnormalities. Read on to learn more about this mechanism.
What is a Holter monitor?
A Holter monitor is a device a patient wears per doctor’s order to monitor and record the heart rhythm continuously over 24 to 48 hours. It looks like a small rectangular recording device worn around the neck by a “lanyard.” Various electrodes come out of the device and stick to the skin. During this period, the Holter monitor picks up on irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).
A Holter monitor is typically recommended if other diagnostic tests, such as an echocardiogram or electrocardiogram, do not provide sufficient data for a doctor to determine if there is an issue with the heart. Often, a Holter monitor can pick up on irregularities of the heartbeat more so than an EKG or ECG, especially since it is left on for a lengthy period.
Heart specialists at the Mayo Clinic state that a healthcare provider may recommend a Holter monitor if you have the following:
- Signs and symptoms of an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Unexplained fainting
- A heart condition that increases the risk of arrhythmias
Of course, there may be other reasons why a doctor might recommend using a Holter monitor. The great thing about these devices is that they are easy to use and deliver top-notch, reliable information to your doctor, which they can view once the monitor is returned to the office.
What happens when you wear a Holter monitor?
If you’re scheduled to wear a Holter monitor, here are some things you need to know:
- Be prepared for some inconvenience. The monitoring process will require that you always keep the device attached to your chest, so you must be careful not to get the device wet or sweat too much.
- Bring the monitor with you when you go on trips or leave town. You will wear it continuously, no matter the activity you are engaged in.
- Keep a record of your symptoms and any changes in your health so that you can share this information with your doctor. You may be asked to keep a journal of your daily activities and “timestamps” so your doctor can determine if certain activities correlate with any arrhythmias.
- Follow all of the instructions provided by your doctor or the monitoring center.
These steps will help ensure that the Holter monitor provides accurate information about your heart health. And don’t worry; someone will walk you through the process once the Holter monitor is ordered and available for you to pick up.
Risks and benefits of a Holter monitor
Thankfully, there are no significant risks to wearing a Holter monitor. Some people report the monitor seems uncomfortable or interferes with specific activities, while others report mildly irritated skin where the electrodes are placed. This mainly occurs in individuals who have an allergy to certain adhesives.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with or affect the results of the Holter monitor reading, according to experts at John Hopkins. These include, but are not limited to:
- Close proximity to magnets, metal detectors, high-voltage electrical wires, and electrical appliances such as shavers, toothbrushes, and microwave ovens. Cell phones and MP3 players can also interfere with the signals and should be kept at least 6 inches from the monitor box.
- Smoking or using other forms of tobacco
- Certain medicines
- Excessive sweating, which may cause the leads to loosen or come off
The benefits of wearing a Holter monitor, along with the information the data can tell your doctor, exceed the slight discomfort or inconvenience you may feel while wearing it for a short time. This process can ultimately be a life-saver.
Wearing a Holter monitor for a couple of days is an efficient way for doctors to collect data on patients’ hearts. While having it on might be a bit inconvenient, particularly during sleep or while trying to bathe, it truly is the easiest way to gain thorough and helpful information in a non-invasive way. You might be in a position where you may need to wear one, and your doctor will let you know and order one for you. Cardiovascular Group in Gwinnett deals with dozens of heart-related conditions, some requiring a Holter monitor as a diagnostic tool, so they are no strangers to this device. Contact CVG if you think you might benefit from this device or have questions about it to determine if it is right for you.