Holter Monitoring - A Guide to Help You Get Ready
What is holter monitoring?
This is a recording of your heart rhythm. It is done for 24 to 48 hours, while you go about your daily life. It is very useful in finding abnormal heart rhythms.
What does it show?
An abnormal heart rhythm is called an arrhythmia. This is a change in either the speed or pattern of the heartbeat. During this, your heart may beat too fast, too slow, or without a pattern.
Doctors can find an arrhythmia by getting an Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). This is a record of your heart’s electrical activity. During a standard ECG test, the heart’s electrical impulses are stored on a strip of moving paper.
Quite often, an arrhythmia will not occur during the brief time (less than a minute) of recording at the doctor’s office. Your doctor may want to record the ECG over a longer amount of time.
Holter monitors allow your doctor to record your ECG over 24 – 48 hours, while you go about your daily life.
Doctors may order a holter monitor test to:
- Find arrhythmias that may not occur during a standard ECG
- Look for symptoms that come and go, such as palpitations, dizzy spells, or fainting spells
- See how well your medicine or pacemaker treatment is working
The holter recorder
This is small and easy to carry. It can be worn in a pouch hung around your neck. Your ECG is recorded the entire time on tape.
Four small sticky patches, called electrodes or leads, are placed on your chest. These are attached by wires to the device.
How the test is done
You’ll be fitted with the patches and device at the clinic or hospital.
Many parts of your chest will be cleaned. This helps the patches stick well. Men may need to have some of their chest shaved.
The sticky patches are attached to your chest. These are connected by wires to the recorder. The patches and wires are often taped in place. All of the patches must stay on your skin while you are having the test.
The system is checked to make sure it is working. You may also be given written instructions to take home with you.
A few tips
- When you have the device placed, wear a loose blouse or shirt, with the buttons in the front.
- Try to sleep on your back, with the recorder at your side. This will keep the patches from being pulled off.
- All wires and patches must remain attached for the whole recording. If a patch comes off, clean the area and reattach the electrode. You will be given extra electrodes in case one comes off.
- Do not get the patches, wires, or device wet. Do not swim, take a bath, or shower while wearing them.
- During the test, you should avoid electric blankets, magnets, metal detectors, and high voltage areas such as power lines. Signals from such devices may affect the data.
- You will need to keep the unit with you at all times during the test. You can do anything you would want to do, except take a bath or shower.
- You will carry a diary. You will use this to keep track of :
- Your activities
- Symptoms you may have while you are being monitored
- The exact time your symptoms occurred
At the end of the test, you may return to the doctor’s office or hospital to have the device and patches taken off or remove them yourself. If you are not able to return the Holter, it may be mailed back to the hospital. If you choose to mail the device back, a padded envelope will be given to you.
Keeping a diary
You’ll keep a diary during the time you carry the recorder. This is very important. It allows your activities and symptoms to be compared with the ECG record.
You will need to record:
- Your activities (walking, exercise, climbing stairs, bowel movements, having sex, stressful times, sleeping, taking your pills, etc.)
- Symptoms you feel (such as palpitations, feeling dizzy or faint, shortness of breath, or chest pain).
- The exact time when events occurred.
Your test results
When you return the monitor, the data is analyzed and given to a cardiologist for review. The final report is sent to your doctor who will either call you with the test results or discuss the results with you at a clinic visit. If you have not heard from your doctor and have questions about the test results, you may call your doctor.
The data from the Holter monitor helps your doctor see how your heart is working. This helps your doctor create a treatment plan for you.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 01/07/2013
Copyright © 01/07/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5488
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