How Does A Holter System Work?

Holter System example

Modern medicine provides many technologically advanced solutions for diagnostic and monitoring of possible conditions. In order to properly diagnose patients sometimes doctors need more than a 15 minute physical appointment. Often times data collected over days, weeks or months is necessary in order to make a determination on a possible medical condition. In these situations Holter or event monitoring system may be necessary to complete accurate diagnostic work.  

What is Holter?

Holter and event monitors are medical devices that monitor and record the heart’s electrical activity. They are most often used to diagnose arrhythmias. Heart arrhythmias is a condition where the heart beats either too fast or too slow and can cause further medical issues. A Holter or even monitor is used to record and detect silent myocardial ischemia. These medical devices are similar to an electro-cardiogram (EKG) although they are worn to record electrical activity during certain periods or during a long-term period such as a week or month. The EKG is often used to detect heart conditions but because the test is only seconds long it may often miss arrhythmias that happen during certain activities, times or  life events. A Holter monitor records heart electrical activity during the entire period that it is worn, whereas an event monitor records during specific events or activities.

Types of Holter Monitors

There are different types of Holter and event monitors for use in different situations. They are described below:

Holter monitor - is generally the size of a large deck of cards which can be slipped onto a belt or into a pocket and worn as necessary or prescribed. There are number of wires and electrodes, essentially sticky pads, which are attached to different parts of the chest to record heart electrical activity. This monitor records the activity which then can be accessed by your physician.

Wireless Holter monitor – have longer recording abilities than a standard Holter monitor and can transmit data wirelessly through cellular technology to your physician’s office for review at anytime. The device still has wires and electrodes that connect to your chest into a unit that is connected to your belt or held in your pocket.

Even monitor - is different than a Holter monitor in that it records data only during specific events or when enabled by the wearer. They do not continuously record and often need to be started when symptoms are noticed although some start automatically during abnormal heart arrhythmias. They are still attached to the chest in the same manner as a Holter monitor.

Post event recorders – are the smallest of all Holter and event monitors that can be kept in a pocket or included in a wristwatch style. These are meant to record events as they happen or after they happen as symptoms are noticed by the patient. These recorders only record events when they are turned on and may miss arrhythmias before or after the recorded event.

Autodetect or implantable recorders – are two different types of recorders that offer automatic recording once an abnormal heart rate is detected. Implantable recorders are implanted under the skin of the chest and are the least encumbersome.

Holter and event monitors are important for diagnostic purposes for arrhythmia issues. Without these monitors many patients can go undiagnosed for multiple years causing further medical problems. It is best to understand how Holter systems works before purchasing or using any such device.

Written by John Gladstein. John is passionate about lowering the cost of healthcare for medical professionals.

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