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Why is Your Doctor Ordering Monitoring?

Many heart problems are noticeable only during certain activities. These include exercise, eating, sex, stress, bowel movements, and even sleeping. An ambulatory electrocardiogram is more likely to find abnormal heartbeats that occur during these activities.

Many people have irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) from time to time. What this means depends on the type of pattern they produce, how often they occur, how long they last, and whether they occur at the same time you have symptoms. Because arrhythmias can come and go, it may be hard to record one while you are in the doctor's office.

Holter and event monitoring can help your doctor:
  • Study symptoms like palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting that may be heart related
  • Identify irregular heartbeats
  • Check how well an implanted pacemaker is working
  • Check how well your medications are working

What is Holter Monitoring?

Both Holter and event monitors are types of ambulatory electrocardiograms, tests that record the electrical activity of your heart while you go about your usual activities.

A Holter monitor is a small, wearable device that records your heart rhythm continuously for up to 72 hours.

An event monitor is a wearable device that records your heart continuously for 3–30 days. The recordings are monitored throughout the day by support staff at the company that supplies the monitor, and urgent findings are reported to your doctor. Your doctor can see what your heart rhythm is doing during your normal activities and learn of abnormal rhythms that may be concerning, but not causing you symptoms. If you do experience symptoms, you will be asked to push buttons on the monitor to indicate the time and type of symptom.

What to Expect

Holter Monitor: A technician will place electrodes, or patches, on your chest. The monitor will be connected to the patches with wires, and then clipped to your belt or pocket or worn around your neck. After you get instructions, you can return to your usual activities, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. You will be asked to keep a diary of symptoms you notice while wearing the monitor.

Event Monitoring: Typically the monitor is mailed to you with instructions on how to place the electrodes and operate the monitor. You will wear two electrodes on your chest that will be connected to the monitor throughout the day, except when bathing. You will return the monitor in a postage-paid envelope.

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