Sometimes abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) only occur at certain times or in specific situations, such as when you exercise, sleep or experience stress. Or perhaps you don’t feel any heart anomalies but have symptoms, such as dizziness or fainting, that indicate a problem such as atrial fibrillation (Afib).
If so, your doctor might suggest noninvasive electrocardiographic monitoring, which uses a wearable, battery-operated sensor to record your heart’s electrical activity.
As you go about your everyday life, one of these ambulatory electrocardiogram (ECG) devices collects heart data that can help your doctor diagnose problems. ECG devices also help your doctor find out if your heart medications or cardiac implantable devices, such as a pacemaker, are working. Ask your doctor about these options.
- Holter Monitor — Through several electrodes attached to your chest, this portable box, worn on a belt or shoulder strap, records and stores continuous heart data for 24 to 48 hours. You maintain your normal routine and keep a time log of your activities and any symptoms you experience. Your doctor will analyze the results to figure out arrhythmia triggers or related information.
- Event Recorder — Though similar to a Holter monitor, this sensor can gather data for one to two months. If you feel a heart abnormality while wearing the device, you press a button to note it on the recording (some devices have an auto-capture feature). New technology allows the monitor to send data directly to your doctor’s office.
- Mobile Cardiac Telemetry (MCT) — For up to 30 days, you trigger this smaller portable sensor when you detect a heart abnormality; it instantly sends the data to a monitoring center, where a cardiac technician interprets it before sending it to your doctor for diagnosis. Devices also capture any “silent” abnormal heart activity. MCT allows for real-time heart monitoring and analysis.
- Continuous Patch Monitoring — Innovative new technologies enable you to wear a small patch—about the size of a large Band-Aid—on your chest that continuously records heart data for several days or weeks. You don’t need to remove the patch while exercising, sleeping or bathing, so it’s extremely easy to use. Studies show that these miniaturized monitors detect more events than a standard Holter monitor.