Electrocardiograms (EKG) are excellent tools for measuring heart activity. The restriction is that they can only look at that heart activity while the patient is in the office and connected to the machine. Cardiac symptoms, like abnormal heart rhythms, can come and go throughout the day. That is a why a doctor may need to collect data about a patient’s heartbeat over time. Enter ambulatory electrocardiograms like the Holder monitor. These devices can record your heart’s activity throughout the day, for a day, or two or more. With the help of a Holter monitor a physician can determine things like whether the heart is getting enough oxygen or if medications are having the desired effect. The Holter monitor records heart activity continuously, giving the physician a much more complete picture of your heart’s condition.
Safe and Painless
A Holter monitor is a small battery powered device – about the size of a smart phone. Attached to it are several thin wires with small electrodes on the ends. The monitor itself is worn on the patient’s person in a purse or pocket while the electrodes are connected at several locations on the chest. How many electrodes are needed is determined by the doctor, but it will range between four and eight. The device is non-invasive and completely pain free. It simply records heart activity.
The Holter monitor is attached by a trained technician who explains its care and use. Since the device cannot get wet, the patient may be asked to refrain from bathing for the duration of the test. Generally the patient is asked to keep a diary of their activities while wearing the Holter monitor. The diary should also include any symptoms experienced such as shortness of breath, dizziness, heart palpitations or chest pains. Some Holter monitors include an “event button.” This botton can be pressed if a symptom is experienced so that it is marked right on the monitor’s data. After the designated time with the Holter monitor is over, it is returned to the doctor’s office where the data is downloaded from it. With the time stamped data from the monitor and the patient’s diary, the doctor will be able to compare activities and symptoms to the heart’s activity.
A technician can read the Holter monitor data and quickly determine if there is an urgent situation. If so, the technician will alert the doctor immediately so that proper action can be taken. Otherwise, the data will be reviewed and the results explained to the patient within a few days.
The lightweight and portable Holter monitor has proven to be an excellent tool that provides a more complete picture of heart health than a visit to the doctor’s office ever could. It’s ease of use and the large amount of data it provides have made them essential in treating heart conditions.