How It Is Done
Continuous recorders are the most common type of ambulatory electrocardiogram monitor. This type includes the Holter monitor .
A continuous recorder provides a 24- to 72-hour record of the electrical signals
from your heart. A standard EKG monitors only 40 to 50 heartbeats during the
brief period you are attached to the machine. A continuous recorder monitors
about 100,000 heartbeats in 24 hours and is likely to find any heart problems
that happen with activity.
For this test, you wear a lightweight, battery-operated tape
recorder (monitor) on a strap over your shoulder or around your waist. The
recorder is connected by wires to small metal discs (electrodes) taped to your
chest. The electrodes detect the electrical signals from your heart. A clock is
connected to the recorder so you can note what time it is when you have any
You will be fitted with the recorder and electrodes by a
technician in a doctor's office or hospital room.
- Several areas on your chest may be shaved and
cleaned, and then a small amount of electrode paste or gel will be applied to
- The electrode pads will then be attached to the skin
of your chest, with thin wires connecting the electrodes to the monitor.
- You may be hooked up briefly to a standard EKG machine to ensure
that the electrodes are working properly.
What you do during the test
While wearing the continuous recorder, you will also be asked to
keep a diary of all your activities and symptoms, including the type of
activity you were doing and the time your symptoms started. In the diary, write
down the exact times when you exercise, climb stairs, eat, urinate, have a
bowel movement, have sex, sleep, get emotionally upset, take medicine, or
perform other activities. If you have any symptoms of heart problems, such as
dizziness, fainting, chest pain, or palpitations, push the event-marker button
on the recorder to mark it and write down the exact time and how long the
symptom lasts. For example, you might write: "12:30 p.m. Ate lunch. 1:00 p.m.
Argument with boss, had chest tightness for several minutes."
When you sleep, try to stay on your back with the recorder
carefully positioned at your side so that the electrodes are not pulled off. If
one of the electrodes or lead wires comes loose, a light on the monitor will
flash. Press on the center of each electrode to see if you can restore the
contact. Call your doctor if one of the electrodes comes off and you can't get
it to stay on.
While you are wearing a monitor, try to stay away from magnets,
metal detectors, high-voltage areas, garage door openers, microwave ovens, and
electric blankets. Do not use an electric toothbrush or shaver. Signals from
these types of electronic equipment can sometimes interfere with the recording.
What you and your doctor do after the test