Is a Holter Monitor?
A Holter monitor is a small, battery-powered medical device that
measures your heart’s activity, such as rate and rhythm. Your doctor may ask
you to use one if they need more information about how your heart functions
than a routine electrocardiogram (EKG) can give them.
Twenty-four hour Holter monitoring is a continuous test to record
your heart’s rate and rhythm for 24 hours. You wear the Holter monitor for 12
to 48 hours as you go about your normal daily routine. This device has
electrodes and electrical leads exactly like a regular EKG, but it has fewer
leads. It can pick up not only your heart’s rate and rhythm but also when you
feel chest pains or exhibit symptoms of an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia.
Holter monitor testing is also sometimes called ambulatory
for Holter Monitoring
An EKG is a medical test that’s used to measure your heart rate
and rhythm. It’s also used to look for other abnormalities that may affect
normal heart function. During an EKG, electrodes are placed on your chest to
check your heart’s rhythm. You may experience heart rhythm irregularities that
don’t show up at the time the EKG is done because you’re only hooked up to the
machine for a very brief amount of time.
Abnormal heart rhythms and other types of cardiac symptoms can
come and go. Monitoring for a longer period of time is necessary. The Holter
monitor lets your doctor see how your heart functions on a long-term basis. The
recordings made by the monitor help your doctor determine if your heart is
getting enough oxygen or if the electrical impulses in the heart are delayed.
If you’re already being treated for heart problems, wearing your monitor can
help your doctor determine if your medicine is working or if changes need to be
made. It can also help them to see why you might be experiencing other symptoms
of irregular heartbeat, such as dizziness, faintness, or feeling like your
heart is racing or skipping a beat.
The Holter monitor is small. It’s slightly larger than a deck of
playing cards. Several leads, or wires, are attached to the monitor. The leads
connect to electrodes that are placed on the skin of your chest with a
glue-like gel. The metal electrodes conduct your heart’s activity through the
wires and into the Holter monitor.
You wear a small pouch around your neck that holds the monitor
itself. It’s important to keep the monitor close to your body during the
testing period to make sure the readings are accurate. Your doctor will show
you how to reattach electrodes if they become loose or fall off during the
You’ll get instructions that explain how to take care of your
monitor and what not to do while you’re wearing it. It’s important to avoid
bathing, showering, and swimming while you’re wearing the monitor.
You’re encouraged to participate in your normal activities during
the Holter 24-hour test. You’ll be directed to record your activities in a
notebook. This helps your doctor determine if changes in heart activity are
related to your behaviors and movements.
Wearing the Holter monitor itself
has no risks involved. However, the tape or adhesives that attach the electrodes
to your skin can cause mild skin irritation in some people. Make sure to tell
the technician that attaches your monitor if you’re allergic to any tapes or
A 24-hour Holter monitor test is painless. However, be sure to
record any chest pain, rapid heartbeat, or other cardiac symptoms you have
during the testing period.
Keep the Holter monitor dry to ensure it functions properly. Take
a bath or shower before your appointment to have the monitor fitted and don’t
apply any lotions or creams. Avoid activities that might lead to the monitor
Magnetic and electrical fields may interfere with the function of
the Holter monitor. Avoid areas of high voltage while wearing the monitor.
After the recommended testing time frame has passed, you’ll
return to your doctor’s office to have the Holter monitor removed. Your doctor
will read your activity journal and analyze the results of the monitor.
Depending on the results of the test, you may need to undergo further testing
before a diagnosis is made.
The Holter monitor may reveal that your medicine isn’t working or
your dosage needs to be altered if you’re already taking medication for an
abnormal heart rhythm.
Wearing a Holter monitor is painless and one of the best ways to
identify potential heart problems or other issues.