Ambulatory ECG Monitoring (Holter Monitoring)
Electrocardiography (ECG) is a test performed to record the electrical activity of the heart.
A holter monitor records the ECG over a 24-hour period. The monitor will record every heart whilst you are wearing it. During this period, any abnormal beats/rhythms will be detected.
A holter monitor is performed to:
- Identify abnormal beats and heart rhythms
- Evaluate your symptoms to see if it is related to your heart
- Monitor pacemaker or defibrillator activity
- Assess if your medications are controlling your symptoms or a known abnormal rhythm
Before the Test
You do not have to do anything special before your holter monitor.
You will not be able to shower for 24 hours while the monitor is attached so we suggest you shower before your appointment.
For ladies, it can be more comfortable if you wear a shirt/top and skirt/pants rather than a dress.
Do not apply any lotions or creams (e.g. moisturisers) to your chest area.
It is a requirement by law that we receive your consent prior to performing your test. It is important that you understand what the test is about, how it is done and what possible adverse outcomes there may be (e.g. possible skin irritation from electrodes and skin preparation). You will be given a form which will outline these things. If you have any questions please feel free to ask the technician who will be in the room with you when you sign the form.
How is the Test Done?
It will take approximately 20 minutes to attach the monitor.
An exposed chest area is required; however, ladies can leave their bra on during monitor attachment.
Small sticky pads called electrodes are then attached to the chest to record the ECG. The electrodes need to have good contact with the skin to record the electrical impulses from the heart. Men with hairy chests will be shaved in spots where the electrodes will be placed. The technician will then give the skin a light scrub with rough paper and a wipe with alcohol. This removes the dead skin cells which can form a barrier. You will find that this may sting a little and may leave red patches on your skin. This is normal and will take a couple of days to go away. Some patients with extra sensitive skin may develop small blisters from the gel used on the electrodes. This is rare and will heal quickly.
While you are wearing the monitor, you are asked to note your symptoms. This is done by pressing the button on the monitor when symptoms occur and noting the time along with a brief description of your symptoms in a diary which will be supplied to you.
You cannot shower, use an electric blanket or have an x-ray while wearing the monitor. You must try and do whatever you would do in a normal day.
If an electrode comes away from your skin simply use a band aid to stick it back down.
You will be required to remove the monitor the following morning (at a time advised by the cardiac technician) by unclipping the leads from the electrodes which can then be discarded after being carefully removed from the skin. The monitor is then to be returned in the red bag provided at the time advised on the front of the patient diary.
What Are the Risks?
There are no known risks associated with holter monitors.
How do I get my results?
A report will be sent to your referring doctor (usually within 24 hours). Your doctor will then discuss your results at your next appointment.