What is a Holter Monitor?

You’ve been to your cardiologist and she wants to get a better idea of what is going on with your heart. She has ordered you a Holter Monitor. What does that mean for you, the patient, and what will the experience be like? If you’re anxious or even curious about what this study has in store for you, I can give you a first hand account of the experience from a patient’s point of view.

Simply put, a Holter Monitor is a small device that the patient wears for a specific period of time. It records everything your heart does during the study period. The most common Holter Monitor duration is the 24 hour Holter. It is a painless, non-invasive device that is worn on a belt, around the neck, or in a pocket, with five electrodes attached to the device at one end and adhered to your chest at the other. The experience is fairly simple, if somewhat cumbersome.

The day your Holter Monitor duration is to begin, you will report to the Holter Lab of the medical center your cardiologist is affiliated with. There, a technician will take you into an examination room and ask you to change out of your shirt and, if applicable, brassier, and put on one of their gorgeous hospital gowns with the opening in the front.

The technician will then come back in and place the electrodes on your chest. First he or she will cleanse the spots where the electrodes will be placed with alcohol, and follow that with an abrasive scrub, which will prepare the skin for the best level of contact with the electrodes. The abrasive scrub is the only painful part of the procedure, and the level of pain is mild. It feels similar to having your skin rubbed for a moment or two with a piece of sandpaper. And then the electrodes are placed. The points of contact for the electrodes are in a circular pattern around your heart. One is placed on each clavicle, one under each pectoral muscle, and one below the heart. The Holter device will then be turned on with fresh batteries placed in it, and you will be shown the various ways you can wear the device, which is about the size of a small walkman radio. It will clip to your belt, or can be worn around your neck like a long necklace.

During your Holter Monitoring period, you are able and encouraged to continue all your regular activities, including exercise, work, sleep patterns, et cetera. The only exception to this is showing or bathing. You will need to wait until the 24 hours are up and you have removed the Holter Monitor before you are able to bathe. I definately recommend a nice hot shower before leaving for your appointment at the Holter Lab.

During the 24 hour period, you will be asked to record everything you do during the dayon a specially designed form that you will receive at the Holter Lab . This will allow the technician to be able to connect your activities with the data he or she is able to retrieve from the Holter Monitor when your study period is finished, and prepare a report for your cardiologist.

The next day, when your 24 hour Holter Monitor is finished, you will remove the Holter Monitor yourself, remove the electrodes and throw them away, and place the Holter and your activity register in a bag. You will take this bag back to the Holter Lab to turn it in for processing, and your Holter Monitor experience is finished.

Well, almost� It may take you a few days to get the adhesive from the electrodes off your chest.

Your cardiologist will now have all the information he or she needs to determine what, if any, your next course of treatment or investigation will be. Good luck!

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