What is a Holter monitor?
A Holter monitor is also called a portable electrocardiography (EKG) monitor. It shows your heart's electrical activity while you do your usual activities. The monitor is a small battery-operated device that you wear. It will show how fast your heart beats and if it beats in a regular pattern.
Why might I need to use a Holter monitor?
- You had a heart attack: A Holter monitor may show if you are at risk for another heart attack. The monitor shows whether your heart is getting enough oxygen, even if you have no symptoms. The monitor shows when these episodes happen, and how your heart responds.
- You have an abnormal EKG finding: A Holter monitor may show if a heart problem is causing your symptoms. Symptoms include chest pain, dizziness, fainting, fast or pounding heartbeat, weakness, and confusion. The monitor can record irregular heartbeats over time.
- You are scheduled for heart surgery: You may need to wear a Holter monitor before you have heart surgery. This will give caregivers a record of your usual heart rhythm.
- You are pregnant and have irregular heartbeats: Irregular heartbeats may harm your health and your baby's health. You may need to wear a Holter monitor if you have strong, pounding heartbeats. You may also need to wear it during pregnancy if you have heart disease.
- You start new heart medicines: These heart medicines may be used to make your heartbeat faster or slower. The monitor can show if your heart medicine is controlling your heartbeat as it should.
- You have a pacemaker: A pacemaker is a small device that helps control your heartbeat. It may make your heartbeat slower, faster, or regular. A Holter monitor may be used to check if your pacemaker is working properly. The monitor may also check if your pacemaker controls your heartbeat while you do your usual activities.
How do I wear a Holter monitor?
- Sticky pads are placed on certain areas of your chest. Three to 8 sticky pads may be used. Your caregiver may tape the electrodes to your skin to keep them in place. Wear loose-fitting clothes with your monitor so you can move freely.
- The electrodes will be plugged into the monitor. The monitor will be turned on and will record electrical signals constantly for 24 to 48 hours. You may need to use your monitor for up to 7 days. The monitor will be put in a pouch for you to carry.
What do I need to know about wearing the Holter monitor?
- Keep a log: List any symptoms you have while you wear the monitor. Write down the time and what you were doing when the symptoms started. List when you take any medicines or drink any alcohol. Take this log with you when you see your caregiver. The log may help him learn what is causing your abnormal heart activity. The following are some examples of symptoms to write down in the log:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Dizziness or fainting
- Irregular heartbeats, such as a fluttery feeling in your chest
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Strong, pounding heartbeats
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Do not get your chest wet: Your sticky pads may fall off if they get wet. The monitor cannot record your heart rhythm without the sticky pads and electrodes in place. Do not take a shower while you wear the Holter monitor. Take sponge baths instead.
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- The sticky pads or electrodes come off your chest.
- Your monitor stops working.
- You have a headache, dizziness, or feel like you are going to faint.
- You have a rash on the skin under the sticky pads.
- You have questions or concerns about the Holter monitor, your condition, or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You are pale and have cold, sweaty skin.
- You have a heavy or squeezing feeling in your chest that lasts longer than a few minutes.
- You have pain in your chest that spreads to your shoulders, neck, or arms.
- You have trouble breathing.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.