If you have a known heart condition or experience symptoms of an abnormal heart rhythm, your doctor may ask you to take a 24-hour heart monitor test. This non-invasive procedure records heart activity during normal daily activity and helps the physician determine if treatment is needed or if current treatment methods are effective.
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The 24-hour heart monitor test shows your doctor how your heart functions over a long period of time, including precisely when irregularities occur and how long they last. She may recommend the test if you've recently experienced dizziness, fainting, chest pain, heart palpitations or a heart attack or are taking a new heart medication.
The heart monitor test is performed with a small device called a Holter monitor, an electrocardiograph machine that records the activity of your heart. This device may also be called an ambulatory monitor or a continuous or portable electrocardiogram, and it might be abbreviated as ECG or EKG.
The Holter monitor is battery-operated and is typically about the size of a deck of cards. Electrodes are fastened to your chest for the duration of the test and attached to the monitor. The Holter monitor can be placed in a pocket or worn around your neck.
The 24-hour heart monitor test is painless, but it can be slightly inconvenient. You have to sleep through the night with the electrodes on and the heart monitor nearby, which can be uncomfortable. The monitor can't get wet, so you're advised to bathe before beginning the test and to refrain from baths and showers until the test ends. Oils and lotions can weaken the adhesive on the electrodes and should be avoided.
Your doctor will ask you to keep a record of your activities and any symptoms you experience during the test. It's necessary to note what time these events occur so that he can match your information with the report from the heart monitor and determine if there were any irregular rhythms during that period.
At the end of the 24-hour test period, your doctor will examine the recordings made by the heart monitor. Heart rates fluctuate with different activities, and a normal result shows no significant fluctuations. An abnormal result might show an irregular heartbeat or an indication that there's a artery blockage, or that the heart medication currently being used isn't working as it should. Your doctor may recommend further tests based on the results of the 24-hour heart monitor test.