24-Hour Holter Monitoring: Uses, Results, and What to Expect

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If you are not in the medical field, you might be wondering what a Holter monitor is and its uses. Knowing what it is and understanding how it works could be helpful. For all you know, you might need one. In this article, you will learn what a Holter monitor does and understand heart monitor results

What is a Holter Monitor?

This small and wearable medical device is used to record your heart rate and rhythm and detects irregular heartbeats. This device can also determine if you are at risk of arrhythmia.

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Doctors usually order tests using a Holter monitor when ECG or EKG, a traditional electrocardiogram, doesn’t show enough information about the condition of the heart. An event recorder, which is a longer-term monitor, may be needed if the irregular heartbeats are sporadic.

A 24-hour Holter monitoring will record your heart’s activity for 24 hours, obviously. You will be required to wear a Holter monitor for 24 to 48 hours as you take on your normal, everyday routine. Just like the traditional ECG, this medical device also consists of electrodes and electrical leads—only it has fewer leads than ECG.

How Do You Use a Holter Monitor?

Abnormalities in the heart’s rhythm, as well as other types of cardiac signs, can come and go at any time. An ECG is a medical test performed by a doctor to measure your heart’s rate and rhythm. In doing so, electrodes are attached to your chest. However, the irregularities in your heart’s rhythm may not show up during an ECG test because the device is only hooked up to your chest for a very short amount of time. 

For this reason, 24-hour Holter monitoring is necessary to record the “unrecorded” events.

On the Holter monitor, your doctor will be able to see your heart’s activity based on the long term. Also, through the monitor’s recordings, your doctor can determine whether your heart is getting the right amount of oxygen or whether the heart’s electrical impulses are delayed or early. The irregular impulses in the heart are commonly known as arrhythmias.

If you are already taking medications for heart problems

Wear your Holter monitor so your doctor can determine whether or not your medicine is working, so changes can be made if necessary.

How does a Holter monitor work?

Only a bit larger than your regular playing cards, this device can record your heart’s activity and function through the wires attached to your chest and into the monitor. A small pouch should be worn around your neck to hold the monitor.

To make sure you get accurate readings, keep the Holter monitor close to your body throughout the testing period. You can just reattach the electrodes if they fall off or become loose.

Keep in mind that the device is not water-resistant. Do not let the monitor get wet.

You don’t need to put a halt to your daily activities during the 24-hour monitoring. You can go on with your normal routine, but remember to jot down your activities during the day. This can help your doctor determine if the changes in your heart’s rate and rhythm are related to your physical movements and behaviors.

Understanding the Test Results

When the required time frame of monitoring has passed, return to your doctor and have the monitor removed. Your doctor will also review your notes where you recorded your activities and analyze the results recorded on the monitor.

Whether or not you need to undergo more testing will depend on the results of the test before your doctor can properly diagnose you.

If you’re already on medications for irregular heart rhythm, the Holter monitor should reveal whether or not your medicine is working and if your dosage needs to be adjusted.

What to Expect

The test starts in your doctor’s clinic. Wearing loose clothes during the test is advisable in order for the electrodes to stay in position. Before placing the electrodes on your chest, a nurse or technician should clean your skin. Excess chest hair may need to be shaved to make sure the signal is properly transmitted.

Your doctor will explain what to do if an electrode falls off or gets loose, as well as the dos and don’ts during the test.

As mentioned, avoid bathing with a Holter monitor. Do not get the leads and electrodes wet. You can use wet wipes to clean your body except for your chest.

You will be advised to go about your normal everyday routine and activities, and record them in your journal. Your doctor will have to read it after the test. Also, you will be asked to limit your alcohol and caffeine intake as it can affect your heart rate reading.

Conclusion

There are no recorded risks involving the wearing of the Holter monitor. A 24-hour Holter monitoring is painless and should not be bothersome for anyone. Make sure to record all your activities during the test, including any chest pain or rapid heartbeat you may experience.

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