What Is a Holter Monitor?
The Holter monitor is a painless, non-invasive way to undergo heart monitoring outside of a clinical setting. The device is roughly the size of a small camera and has several electrodes that can be attached to your skin. A standard Holter monitor captures and monitors heart activity between 24 and 48 hours, while the wireless version can be worn for up to several days or weeks.
Who Needs a Holter Monitor, When Do They Need It, and Why?
Your doctor may ask you to wear a Holter monitor if you experience symptoms such as irregular heart rate, unexplained fainting, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and chest pain. These symptoms can indicate you may have multifocal atrial tachycardia, or MAT.
MAT is also known as rapid heart rate and occurs when too many signals or electrical impulses are sent from the upper part of the heart called the atria, to the lower part of the heart, or ventricles. When left untreated, MAT can lead to congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and reduced pumping of the heart.
You may be ordered to wear a Holter monitor if you have an electrocardiogram reading that doesn’t detect irregularities in heart rhythm during the brief time you’re at the doctor’s office. A Holter monitor can detect irregularities in heart rate as you go about your normal daily activities.
Which Tests Do You Need Before Getting a Holter Monitor?
The Holter monitor is a test itself and doesn’t require you to undergo any other tests before using one. In most cases, your doctor will suggest you have an electrocardiogram first, then ask you to wear a Holter monitor if the electrocardiogram fails to detect any heart rate irregularities.
Which Tests Do You Need After Getting a Holter Monitor?
It’s possible that you may not experience irregularities in heart rhythm during the 24 or 48 hours while wearing the Holter monitor. If your doctor detects irregularities after reviewing test results, you may be asked to switch from wearing a standard Holter monitor to a wireless Holter monitor that can be worn for seven days or longer. Your doctor may also order more tests such as an X-ray or cardiac catheterization intervention to identify the root cause of your symptoms.
How Do You Prepare for a Holter Monitor?
Take a bath or shower before visiting your doctor for placement of the Holter monitor, since this device cannot get wet or be removed once monitoring begins. If you have chest hair, your doctor may ask you to shave parts of your chest so the electrodes can stick to your skin.
What’s Involved With Using a Holter Monitor?
A Holter monitor is attached to a belt or strap that fastens around your chest to keep it in place, while the electrodes that attach to your chest can be hidden under your clothing.
You must wear the Holter monitor for the entire duration of the test period, including while you sleep. Your doctor will also ask you to journal and track your daily activities and any heart-related symptoms you experience such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and palpitations.
What Happens After the Holter Monitor Test?
When your monitoring period has ended, you’ll return the Holter monitor to your doctor. Your doctor will analyze the test results and review the journal entries outlining your daily activities and symptoms. Your doctor may use this information to diagnose a heart condition. If no irregularities are detected, your doctor may run additional tests or refer you to another specialist for further evaluation.
CareCube offers primary care and cardiovascular services designed to help you maintain good heart health. Contact us today to request an appointment and begin the treatment process.