Holter Monitoring involves measurement of the heart’s activities like rhythm and heart rate with the help of a small, battery-powered device called Holter Monitor. Your doctor may recommend using Holter Monitor to determine the functioning of your heart. Holter Monitoring is a 24-hour test that records your heart’s rhythm and rate for 24 hours continuously. For that, you may need to wear the Holter Monitor for around 48 hours while performing your routine activities. The medical device has electrical leads & electrodes and can pick up your chest pain or symptoms of arrhythmia & irregular heartbeats. Sometimes, it is referred to as ambulatory electrocardiography.
Your doctor will use the information captured on the Holter Monitor to determine if you have arrhythmia (problems with the heart rhythm). Your doctor may recommend a wireless Holter Monitor, that works for weeks if standard Holter Monitor fails to capture irregular heartbeats.
Reasons for Holter Monitoring
Your doctor may recommend an electrocardiogram if you are suffering from symptoms of heart problems. It is a non-invasive test that utilizes electrodes for checking the rhythm of your heart. However, the test may not detect the irregular heartbeats because you are taped with the electrodes of the machine for a short time. If an irregular heart rhythm is causing the condition and you experience the signs & symptoms, your doctor will ask you to wear a Holter Monitor.
The Holter Monitor that you wear will detect the irregularities with your heart rhythm that the electrocardiogram isn’t able to detect within that period. If your heart condition is responsible for increasing the risk of irregular heart rhythm, then Holter Monitor will be suitable for you. Even if you don’t experience the symptoms of abnormal heart rhythm, your doctor may ask you to wear the Holter Monitor. Your doctor might recommend Holter Monitor if you:
- Are tired or experience shortness of breath
- Have a pacemaker and experience dizziness
- Have fast and pounding heartbeat
- Have chest pain without performing any exercise
- Have fluttering heartbeat
- Need to determine the working of your pacemaker
- Have an irregular, too fast, or too slow heartbeat
- Feel dizzy or faint
- Suffered a heart attack and your doctor needs to determine the risks for heart problems for you.
What conditions does Holter Monitor diagnose?
A Holter Monitor can diagnose various heart conditions like:
- Ventricular tachycardia (fast heartbeat starting in the lower chambers of the heart)
- Atrial fibrillation (rapid heartbeat causing stroke)
- Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and conduction disorders with a slow heartbeat.
Working of Holter Monitor
The Holter Monitor is quite smaller in size to which several wires or leads attach. The leads connect with the electrodes by a glue-like gel. The metal electrodes placed on your chest are responsible for the conduction of the activities of your heart. They conduct the activity through the wires into the monitor where it is recorded. The small pouch that holds the monitor remains around your neck. During the testing period, the monitor should be close to your body for accuracy in the readings.
During the testing period, if the electrodes fall off or become loose, your doctor will tell you how to reattach them. He or she will instruct you how you must take care of the monitor when you wear it and what things you should not do. You must not take a bath, shower or swim while you wear the Holster Monitor. However, you must perform your daily activities during the test. You must record your activities in a book that will help your doctor to determine if the changes in heart activity are because of your movements and behaviors.
Although there are no risks of wearing Holter Monitor, you may experience mild skin irritation because of the adhesives or tapes that attach your skin to the electrodes. If you are allergic to tapes or adhesives, you must inform the technician who attaches your monitor beforehand. The 24-hour test is painless and records any chest pain, cardiac symptoms or rapid heartbeat during the test period.
Once the Holter Monitor is in place, your doctor will tell you how to:
- Change the batteries of the Holter Monitor
- Push the button present on the monitor when you could feel any of the heart symptoms
- Maintain a diary for all the symptoms that include chest pain, dizziness, changes in the heartbeat, when do the symptoms take place and the activity you were performing while you experienced the symptoms.
Your doctor will talk to you about the results of the Holter Monitor recorder after having a look at it and your activity book/diary in which you noted. Your doctor may recommend some more tests for finding out the symptoms of your problems or the information record from the Holter Monitor itself may be enough to determine if you have a heart condition. Sometimes, the doctor is not able to diagnose the condition on the basis of the results from the Holter Monitor testing. This may be common if you didn’t experience irregular heart rhythm while you were wearing the monitor for two days.
In such situations, your doctor may ask you to use an event recorder or a wireless Holter Monitor or both, instead of the standard one as you can wear them for longer. Event recorders are of different types and similar to the Holter Monitor. You may just need to push a button as you experience any signs or symptoms.
There aren’t any risks associated with wearing a Holter Monitor but you may experience skin irritation or discomfort in the areas where the technician taped the electrodes. If you are using a wireless Holter Monitor, your technician will instruct you regarding disconnecting and reconnecting the sensors & the Holter Monitor to allow you to bathe or swim. You must avoid magnets, electric blankets, electric toothbrushes, metal detectors, microwave ovens and electric razors while wearing the Holter Monitor as these devices may hinder the path of the signals arising from the electrodes and reaching the monitor. Ensure that you keep your portable music players or cellphones at a distance from the monitor because even they may interrupt the signals arising from the electrodes.