A portable device that records the electrical activity of your heart.
A Holter monitor is a type of portable electrocardiogram (ECG) that records the electrical activity of the heart continuously over 24 hours or longer while you are away from the doctor’s office. A standard or “resting” ECG is one of the simplest and fastest tests used to evaluate the heart. Electrodes (small, plastic patches that stick to the skin) are placed at certain points on the chest and abdomen. The electrodes are connected to an ECG machine by wires. Then, the electrical activity of the heart can be measured, recorded and printed. No electricity is sent into the body.
Natural electrical impulses coordinate contractions of the different parts of the heart. This keeps blood flowing the way it should. An ECG records these impulses to show how fast the heart is beating, the rhythm of the heart beats (steady or irregular), and the strength and timing of the electrical impulses. Changes in an ECG can be a sign of many heart-related conditions.
Your healthcare provider may request a Holter monitor ECG if you have symptoms, such as dizziness, fainting, low blood pressure, ongoing fatigue (tiredness) or palpitations that a resting ECG doesn’t show a clear cause. You wear the same kind of ECG electrode patches on your chest, and the electrodes are connected by wires to a small, portable recording device.
BEFORE THE TEST
If your doctor recommends Holter monitoring, you’ll have the device placed during a scheduled appointment. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, plan to bathe before this appointment. Most monitors can’t be removed and must be kept dry once monitoring begins. We recommend you wear comfortable clothing, so it is easy to dress after the monitor has been hooked up.
DURING THE TEST
A technician will place small electrodes on your chest that sense your heartbeat. For men, a small amount of hair may be shaved to make sure the electrodes stick. The technician will then connect the electrode to a recording device with several wires and will instruct you on how to properly wear the recording device so that it can record data transmitted from the electrodes. The recording device is about the size of a deck of cards.
You’ll be instructed to keep a diary of all the activities you do while wearing the monitor (usually 24-48 hours). It’s particularly important to record in the diary any symptoms of palpitations, skipped heartbeats, shortness of breath, chest pain or lightheadedness. You’ll usually be given a form to help you record your activities and any symptoms.
AFTER THE TEST
Generally, there is no special care after a Holter monitor recording. Once your monitor is fitted and you’ve received instructions on how to wear it, you can resume your normal activities.
Tell your healthcare provider if you develop any signs or symptoms you had before the recording, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting.
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