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Holter monitor (24h)

Ambulatory electrocardiography; Electrocardiography - ambulatory; Atrial fibrillation - Holter; Flutter - Holter; Tachycardia - Holter; Abnormal heart rhythm - Holter; Arrythmia - Holter; Syncope - Holter; Arrhythmia - Holter

A Holter monitor is a machine that continuously records the heart's rhythms. The monitor is worn for 24 to 48 hours during normal activity.

How the Test is Performed

Electrodes (small conducting patches) are stuck onto your chest. These are attached by wires to a small recording monitor. You carry the Holter monitor in a pocket or pouch worn around your neck or waist. The monitor runs on batteries.

While you wear the monitor, it records your heart's electrical activity.

  • Keep a diary of what activities you do while wearing the monitor, and how you feel.
  • After 24 to 48 hours, you will return the monitor to your health care provider's office.
  • The provider will look at the records and see if there have been any abnormal heart rhythms.

It is very important that you accurately record your symptoms and activities so the provider can match them with your Holter monitor findings.

Electrodes must be firmly attached to the chest so the machine gets an accurate recording of the heart's activity.

While wearing the device, avoid:

  • Electric blankets
  • High-voltage areas
  • Magnets
  • Metal detectors

Continue your normal activities while wearing the monitor. You may be asked to exercise while being monitored if your symptoms have occurred in the past while you were exercising.

How to Prepare for the Test

You DO NOT need to prepare for the test.

Your provider will start the monitor. You'll be told how to replace the electrodes if they fall off or get loose.

Tell your provider if you are allergic to any tape or other adhesives. Make sure you shower or bathe before you start the test. You will not be able to do so while you are wearing a Holter monitor.

How the Test will Feel

This is a painless test. However, some people may need to have their chest shaved so the electrodes can stick.

You must keep the monitor close to your body. This may make it hard for you to sleep.

Occasionally there may be an uncomfortable skin reaction to the sticky electrodes. You should call the provider's office where it was placed to tell them about it.

Why the Test is Performed

Holter monitoring is used to determine how the heart responds to normal activity. The monitor may also be used:

  • After a heart attack
  • To diagnose heart rhythm problems that may be causing symptoms such as palpitations or syncope (passing out/fainting)
  • When starting a new heart medicine

Heart rhythms which may be recorded include:

Normal Results

Normal variations in heart rate occur with activities. A normal result is no significant changes in heart rhythms or pattern.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may include various arrhythmias such as those listed above. Some changes may mean that the heart is not getting enough oxygen.

Risks

Other than the uncommon skin reaction, there are no risks associated with the test. However, you should be sure not to let the monitor get wet.

References

Miller JM, Tomaselli GF, Zipes DP. Diagnosis of cardiac arrhythmias. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 35.

Olgin JE. Approach to the patient with suspected arrhythmia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 62.

  • Ventricular fibrillation and tachycardia

    Ventricular fibrillation and tachycardia

    Animation

  •  

    Ventricular fibrillation and tachycardia - Animation

    Facts, causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of ventricular fibrillation and tachycardia.

  • Holter heart monitor

    Holter heart monitor - illustration

    During a heart Holter monitor study, the patient wears a monitor that records electrical activity of their heart (similarly to the recording of an electrocardiogram). This usually occurs for 24 hours, while at the same time the patient also records a diary of their activity. Health care providers then analyze the recording, tabulate a report of the heart's activity, and correlate irregular heart activity with the entries of the patient's diary.

    Holter heart monitor

    illustration

  • Heart, section through the middle

    Heart, section through the middle - illustration

    The interior of the heart is composed of valves, chambers, and associated vessels.

    Heart, section through the middle

    illustration

  • Heart, front view

    Heart, front view - illustration

    The external structures of the heart include the ventricles, atria, arteries and veins. Arteries carry blood away from the heart while veins carry blood into the heart. The vessels colored blue indicate the transport of blood with relatively low content of oxygen and high content of carbon dioxide. The vessels colored red indicate the transport of blood with relatively high content of oxygen and low content of carbon dioxide.

    Heart, front view

    illustration

  • Normal heart rhythm

    Normal heart rhythm - illustration

    An electrocardiogram (ECG) test measures the electrical activity of the heart. A normal resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.

    Normal heart rhythm

    illustration

  • Conduction system of the heart

    Conduction system of the heart - illustration

    The intrinsic conduction system sets the basic rhythm of the beating heart by generating impulses which stimulate the heart to contract.

    Conduction system of the heart

    illustration

  • Ventricular fibrillation and tachycardia

    Animation

  •  

    Ventricular fibrillation and tachycardia - Animation

    Facts, causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of ventricular fibrillation and tachycardia.

  • Holter heart monitor

    Holter heart monitor - illustration

    During a heart Holter monitor study, the patient wears a monitor that records electrical activity of their heart (similarly to the recording of an electrocardiogram). This usually occurs for 24 hours, while at the same time the patient also records a diary of their activity. Health care providers then analyze the recording, tabulate a report of the heart's activity, and correlate irregular heart activity with the entries of the patient's diary.

    Holter heart monitor

    illustration

  • Heart, section through the middle

    Heart, section through the middle - illustration

    The interior of the heart is composed of valves, chambers, and associated vessels.

    Heart, section through the middle

    illustration

  • Heart, front view

    Heart, front view - illustration

    The external structures of the heart include the ventricles, atria, arteries and veins. Arteries carry blood away from the heart while veins carry blood into the heart. The vessels colored blue indicate the transport of blood with relatively low content of oxygen and high content of carbon dioxide. The vessels colored red indicate the transport of blood with relatively high content of oxygen and low content of carbon dioxide.

    Heart, front view

    illustration

  • Normal heart rhythm

    Normal heart rhythm - illustration

    An electrocardiogram (ECG) test measures the electrical activity of the heart. A normal resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.

    Normal heart rhythm

    illustration

  • Conduction system of the heart

    Conduction system of the heart - illustration

    The intrinsic conduction system sets the basic rhythm of the beating heart by generating impulses which stimulate the heart to contract.

    Conduction system of the heart

    illustration

Tests for Holter monitor (24h)

 

 

Review Date: 5/16/2018

Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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