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Minute for Your Heart - Choosing the Right Heart Arrhythmia Monitor

Cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. David Sandler joins us today on the blog to talk about heart monitors for arrhythmia patients.

Patients who experience symptoms such as palpitation or fainting spells are often prescribed monitors in order to catch a potential heart rhythm abnormality. Choosing the proper monitor requires the provider to take a thorough history and have knowledge of potential diagnostic tools.

The most commonly prescribed monitor is a 24-hour, continuously recording device called a Holter monitor (named after its inventor, Norman Jeff Holter). While this monitor is useful if worn during an event, most symptoms are more infrequent than every day. Over the past half century, there have been dramatic technologic advances to help capture these less-frequent events.

An event recorder is usually worn for up to 30 days – or until an episode is captured.  Unlike Holter monitors, event recorders do not record every heart beat. Rather, they are activated by the patient when a symptom is experienced and rely on a one-minute retroactive memory (varies by manufacturer).

Mobile cardiac telemetry monitors record automatically and transmit information via cellphone signal to the physician in cases of emergencies. These are ideal for fainting spells.

There are also implantable cardiac monitors (also called loop recorders), which can be placed under the skin. With a battery life of three years, these are generally used for less frequent episodes when other monitors have failed to catch the spells.

Technologic advances in monitoring have allowed for more accurate diagnosis and treatment of patients with a variety of heart conditions. It is important that the provider takes an extensive history and prescribes the most appropriate diagnostic tool for efficient patient care.