A holter monitor is a continuous tape recording of a patient's electrocardiogram
(EKG) for 24-hours.
Since it can be worn during the patient's regular daily activities, it helps the
physician correlate symptoms of dizziness, palpitations or black outs. Since the
recording covers 24-hours, on a continuous basis, holter monitoring is more likely
to detect an abnormal heart rhythm when compared to the EKG which is less than a
minute. It can help evaluate the patient's EKG during episodes of chest pain, during
which time there may be telltale changes to suggest ischemia or reduced blood supply
to the muscle of the left ventricle.
The chest is cleansed with an alcohol solution to ensure good attachment of the
electrodes. Men with hairy chests may require small areas to be shaved. The electrodes
are applied to the chest. Thin wires are used to connect the electrodes to a small
tape recorder. The tape recorder is secured to the patient's belt or it can be slung
over the shoulder and neck with the use of a disposable pouch. The recorder is worn
for 24-hours and the patient is encouraged to continue his or her daily activities.
To avoid getting wet and damaging the recorder, the patient is not able to shower
for the duration of the test. A diary or log is provided to record activity and
symptoms together with the time. The holter monitor has an internal clock which
stamps the time on the EKG strips. This can be used to correlate the heart rhythm
with symptoms or complaints.