It may sound like a top-secret gadget employed by the CIA or MI-6, but in fact, a Holter monitor is just a battery-operated portable device that continuously measures and records your heart’s activity for 24 to 48 hours or longer. It’s the size of a small camera and has wires with electrodes that attach to your chest, so it can record your ECG (electrocardiography) as you go about your daily business.
You may be wondering why anyone – including you – would want or need to wear a Holter monitor. Your doctor may ask you to do so for a couple of reasons:
- You have a slow, quick, or irregular heartbeat known as an arrhythmia.
- Your doctor wants to make sure your medicines are effective in treating these problems.
- You have a pacemaker that may or may not be functioning properly.
The problem with regular electrocardiograms is that although they allow your doctor to review your heart’s activity at a given point in time, abnormal heart rhythms and cardiac symptoms can come and go. Whereas, the Holter monitor enables our doctor to evaluate your heartbeat over a period of time. It can tell your doctor whether your medicines are working, if your heart is getting enough oxygen, or why you feel dizzy, light-headed, or your heart is racing or skipping a beat. The results it records will help your doctor determine whether you need more testing or an evaluation of current heart medication, a pacemaker, or a procedure to restore the normal rhythm of your heart.
There are no risks to wearing a Holter monitor and it isn’t painful. A specially trained technician attaches it and explains how to use it and how to record your symptoms while wearing it. You can tuck the monitor into your pocket or a pouch, attach it to your waist, or simply carry it across your shoulders and neck like a bag.
Your only restrictions while wearing a Holter monitor are that you can’t bathe, shower, or swim. You cannot have X-rays while wearing a Holter monitor, and you should stay away from high-voltage areas and avoid metal detectors.
The technician or your doctor will also show you how to keep track of your activities and symptoms during the test. For example, if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or uneven heartbeats or dizziness, you’ll need to make a diary notation of the time these occurred and what you were doing. Your notes will then be compared to the changes in your ECG recorded by the Holter monitor.
Once the test is over, you’ll return the monitor to the technician who will process the recording of your heart activity – along with your diary notes – and prepare a report for your doctor, the results of which should be available to you with a week or two.
SC Internal Medicine Associates and Rehabilitation offers comprehensive diagnostic services that include Holter Monitoring designed to keep track of your heart rhythm and facilitate prompt treatment. To find out if you could benefit from a Holter Monitor, call SC Internal Medicine Associates and Rehabilitation at (803) 749-1111, or request an appointment online.