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Holter Monitoring

You Wear It Well

When it comes to men’s and women’s fashions, there are fly-bynight trends and there are classics you can wear as long as the seams and your waistline allow. In the world of diagnostic (testing) technology, the Holter monitor is one of those classics that continues to prove its worth as a valuable diagnostic tool.

Named for physicist Norman J. Holter, who invented telemetric cardiac monitoring in 1949, Holter monitors were first used in the clinical setting in the 1960s. Their primary purpose is to monitor the heart’s rhythm over a period of time (one to three days) to determine the presence of an arrhythmia (slow, fast or irregular heartbeat).

Holter monitors are used to get a 24- or 48-hour recording of the heart to look for fast or slow heart rhythms. Cardiologists can then correlate the rhythm with the patient’s symptom diary that is kept during the recording. Heart rhythm disturbances can occur sporadically or in conjunction with certain situations such as times of stress. A typical electrocardiogram, which only measures the heart’s rhythm for a few seconds, may not pick up such a problem.

 
 

H2H - Winter 2011 monitor

An arrhythmia can result from heart conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is the leading cause of heart-related death among people under age 30. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a genetic mutation. It causes the heart muscle to grow abnormally thick, which can cause major and minor heart conditions. While some people who have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy experience no symptoms, others can have chest pain, fainting spells and shortness of breath. Others may develop ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation, both of which can cause sudden cardiac death. These heart rhythm disturbances may not be detected by a typical electrocardiogram. Outpatient rhythm monitoring, such as Holter monitoring, is used to detect patients at risk for dangerous arrhythmias resulting from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

While great advances in diagnostic technology for arrhythmia have been made in the past 20 years, the Holter monitor is still relied upon. It is non-invasive, easy to use and not disruptive to patients or their schedules.

Preparing for a Holter Monitor Test