A Holter monitor is a small, portable device used to monitor your heart rhythm for 24 to 48 hours while you go about your normal daily activities at home or work. Your healthcare provider has ordered a Holter monitor so he or she can check to see if you have an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is a change from the normal speed or pattern of these electrical impulses. This can cause the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia), or, too slow (bradycardia), or in an unsteady pattern (irregular rhythm). When you have an arrhythmia, it can cause symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, weakness, fatigue, racing heartbeats, pounding, or irregular heartbeats.
Electrical impulses normally cause the heart to beat 60 to 100 times a minute. These impulses come from a natural pacemaker deep inside the heart muscle in the right upper chamber of the heart (atrium). Each impulse spreads through the rest of the heart and causes the heart muscle to contract. This pushes blood through the heart chambers and out to the tissues and organs of your body. Unlike an electrocardiogram (ECG) or a monitor used when you are in the emergency department, the Holter monitor records a continuous log of your heart rhythm activity for a much longer period of time, usually 1 or 2 days. This increases the chance that an arrhythmia will be seen, if one exists.
Knowing the type of arrhythmia will help your healthcare provider identify the cause and the best treatment to use. Any arrhythmia that occurs during the test period will be captured on the recording for your doctor to see.
Do your usual activities while wearing the monitor, except:
- Don't bathe, shower, or swim.
- Stay away from metal detectors or areas of high electrical conductivity
Keep a diary of your activities and anything you feel while wearing the monitor. It is especially important to write down symptoms like chest pain, trouble breathing, or dizziness. Make sure to record the time that you felt these symptoms.
Call as directed to make an appointment to get your Holter monitor. The staff there will explain how to use it. You will be given instructions on how to connect the monitor and take care of it while you are wearing it. You will also be given instructions on how to return the monitor so the results can be evaluated.
Make sure you ask your provider how you will get the results of your test and what follow up plans you should make based on the results.