Perhaps the only thing worse than spending the day in the emergency room is the follow-up care which is sometimes required.
Heart patients, particularly those with suspected arrhythmias or other heart conditions which are difficult to diagnose, often find that an initial diagnosis can’t be determined in an emergency room.
Time-consuming, and somewhat cumbersome, follow-up treatment is sometimes required.
When a diagnosis can’t be determined, a suspected arrhythmia patient may be asked to wear a Holter monitor to help physicians confirm or make a definitive diagnosis.
Used since the 1960s, the Holter monitor is a medical device which is used to monitor how the heart responds during normal activity.
It’s often used to help diagnose conditions such fainting spells, atrial flutters, slow heart beat, heart palpitations, ventricular tachycardia, multifocal atrial tachycardia, and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia.
Sometimes, Holter monitors are worn to monitor heart rhythms after a heart attack or when new heart medications are prescribed.
While wearing a Holter monitor is painless, it can be somewhat intrusive and may interfere with daily activities such as showering or sleeping. This is because the heart patient is connected to the Holter monitor through electrodes which are attached to the chest of the heart patient.
The battery-operated Holter monitor is then worn in a bag either around the neck or waist of the patient. Holter monitors are generally worn from 24 to 48 hours at which time the patient returns to the physician to have the electrodes removed and the results read.
Patients must also keep a log of symptoms while the monitor is worn so that the physician can match the symptoms to the monitor results.
Researchers at Scripps Health believe that a new digital device, the Zio Patch, may be a viable -- and more patient-friendly -- alternative to the Holter monitor.
The Zio Patch is a single-use ambulatory, digital device that can be worn up to 14 days, enabling a longer monitoring period. Unlike the Holter monitor, there are no batteries and electrodes involved and no bags which the patient must wear.