A Holter monitor is a portable device that records the electrical activity of your heart for about 24 hours. Hence it is sometimes called a continuous ECG. While an ECG or an electrocardiogram also monitors the electrical activity of the heart, it provides a picture of the heart's health only for a few seconds, in fact for the time it is administered. If doctors suspect a problem, they advise that the Holter monitor be used to study the heart's electrical activity for a longer period.
Why is this test performed?
Doctors use this monitor to further investigate arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats. The heart may beat too fast (tachycardia) or too slowly (bradycardia) or irregularly.
The Holter monitor is also deployed to detect myocardial ischemia. When this occurs, not enough oxygen rich blood is reaching the heart due to blockages in the arteries. Myocardial ischemia can also be the cause of irregular heartbeats.
How is the test performed?
A technician will place electrodes in different parts of your chest. If sweat or chest hair prevents the electrodes from sticking to the chest, the hair will be shaved. These sensors will be connected with wires to the monitor. You can carry the device in your pocket or around your waist. You will be asked to carry on normal activities throughout the duration of the test. You will be given a form or a diary to record any abnormal events like dizziness, irregular heartbeats, or chest pain. You will be asked to note the time of such events.
You will be advised not to shower during the duration of the test. Upon completion of the test, the monitor will be returned to the cardiac center. The data is analyzed by the technician and the results forwarded to your physician.
Your physician will analyze the results and compare them to any untoward events you may have recorded in the form you will submit to the physician.
The doctor may be able to diagnose your cardiac problems after examining the results from the Holter monitor.
Abnormal results could include arrhythmia or irregular heart rhythms or a heart block. If this device fails to show any abnormalities, then further tests may be ordered.
There are no risks to the patient wearing a Holter monitor. There may some inconvenience to you since you will not be able to shower while the monitoring of the heart is under way. While wearing the device, patients are advised to avoid metal detectors, magnets and electric blankets.
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