Holter Monitors

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A holter is a portable device that records data on your electrical cardiac activity over a period of 24, 48, 72 hours, or 14 days. This test allows your physicians to capture more data on your cardiac activity over a longer period of time compared to a single echocardiogram test session.

Your doctor uses the holter monitor to: 

  • To detect any heart rhythm abnormalities
  • To help determine whether your medications need adjusting
  • To match symptoms with heart activity.

How you prepare:

  • Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, plan to bathe before this appointment. Most monitors can’t be removed and must be kept dry once monitoring begins.
  • Avoid oily or greasy skin creams and lotions the day of the test, as the cream can interfere with the electrode-skin contact.  
  • Take your usual medications unless otherwise directed by your physician. 
  • You can eat, drink and take medications as you normally would.

What to wear: 

  • Wear a shirt that can be easily removed to place the leads on the chest.

What to expect: 

  • A technician will place electrodes that sense your heartbeat on your chest. These electrodes are about the size of a silver dollar. For men, a small amount of hair may be shaved to make sure the electrodes stick.
  • The technician will then connect the electrode to a recording device with several wires and will instruct you on how to properly wear the recording device so that it can record data transmitted from the electrodes. The recording device is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • You’ll be instructed to keep a diary of all the activities you do while wearing the monitor. It’s particularly important to record in the diary any symptoms of palpitations, skipped heartbeats, shortness of breath, chest pain or lightheadedness. You’ll usually be given a form to help you record your activities and any symptoms.
  • Once your monitor is fitted and you’ve received instructions on how to wear it, you can leave your doctor’s office and resume your normal activities.
  • The cardiac technician will instruct you to press the Event button when experiencing symptoms. You will be provided with a diary in which you can record any symptoms experienced including the time and activity level associated with the symptom. If you do not experience any symptoms during the monitoring period, return the diary and write “no symptoms” in the diary.
  • You will be instructed to remove the monitor at a specified time and to discard the used, as well as unused, electrodes.
  • The equipment should be removed by hand only.
  • Place the equipment in its case and return by the time specified. It is important to bring the monitor back at the scheduled time; another patient is waiting.
  • Once the equipment is returned, the data are analyzed, and then reviewed by a cardiologist. Once finalized, a report will be sent to your doctor. Your doctor’s office will notify you of the results.

After the procedure: 

  • People can resume their normal daily activities, including driving, after a holter monitor. The data will be reviewed by a cardiologist and the results will be reported to your doctor.  If necessary, you may be referred for additional testing or a consultation with a physician.