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Types of Heart Monitors

There are many different types of heart rhythm monitors. Each one is battery-operated and equipped with special sensors that can detect and record the ups and downs of the heart’s rhythm.

Heart monitors usually vary based on:

  1. How long they are worn and record the heart’s activity. Some are worn for just a few days, while others will monitor heart activity for a few weeks or even longer.
  2. How the information is captured. For example, if the wearer needs to take some sort of action to start a recording when symptoms occur or if the device continually collects data on its own. With some devices, if you press a button or do something to trigger a recording, it will save information from about 45 seconds before and a little while after the event. This helps to see whether there is a relationship between symptoms and how your heart is beating.
  3. Whether the data is:
    • Sent in real-time for review and to notify your care team if a worrisome arrhythmia is found.
    • Analyzed later once the device is sent back or returned after wearing it.

    • This is sometimes called “record now, analyze now” or “record now, analyze later.” Ask your care team which approach is best for you.

Devices that might be prescribed

DeviceHow or where it’s wornHow long it’s usually worn or usedThings to keep in mind/ask about
Holter monitorAround your neck with a strap so that it rests near the middle of your chest or on your belt 1-3 days (up to 2 weeks for newer models)
  • Short-term monitor, best option if symptoms happen most days
  • About the size of a deck of cards
  • Need to avoid getting it wet or showering unless you have a waterproof cover
  • Data is reviewed after wearing it
External event or patch recorders

Similar to a Holter monitor, but for longer.
Event monitors have sensors that attach to your chest using sticky adhesive; wires connect these sensors to a handheld monitor that you can put in your pocket or on your belt. Some types attach to your wrist.

Patch recorders are placed on the skin of your chest with sticky adhesive; they are usually small enough to be hidden under clothing and not have visible wires or leads; these wires are usually built into the device.
2-6 weeks, depending on the device selected
  • Longer-term monitor, best if symptoms are not felt or if they happen only every once in a while
  • Many ask the wearer to push a button when symptoms occur to record and store heart’s electrical activity around that time; others send the information in real-time to a company that then sorts though the data and reports to the doctor
  • Patch recorders may be easier to manage. You should be able to shower (once it is in place), exercise and sleep comfortably given its small size. These may only record activity for up to 14 days.
Mobile Cardiac Outpatient Telemetry (MCOT)How it’s worn depends on the model; some come as a patch that can be applied firmly to chestUsually up to 30 days
  • Often considered to monitor symptoms
  • Automatically records and sends data to a base monitor and it is sent to technicians who monitor ECG; you can also record a symptom by touching a button on the monitor
  • A good Internet connection is important to transmit the data
  • Keep the base monitor within 30 feet of your sensor
  • You will need to replace patches every 5 days 
Implantable loop recorder

Inserted just under the skin near the heart through a small incision

Up to 4 years
  • About the size of large paperclip 
  • Very simple to place on an outpatient basis without sedation; patients can drive themselves home after
  • Records all the time
  • Sends data from a home monitoring system through a secure website to a central monitoring station
  • Can be easily removed if needed

No matter what device is used, it’s helpful to write down any symptoms you have and when so your care team can see if they match up to any abnormal heartbeats or rhythms that are found. Not everyone has or notices symptoms, but some common ones include:

  • Palpitations (your heart feels like it is flip-flopping, skipping beats, or racing)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Unexplained fainting spells
  • Chest pain, discomfort or pressure
  • Being overly tired

For devices that are placed on your chest, the area of the skin will be cleaned and prepped to be sure the sensors attach well and have good contact to record your heart activity. For men, chest hair in that area may need to be shaved off.

  • Last Edited 12/20/2021