A Holter monitor can be considered a continuous, portable EKG. Just like an EKG, small electrodes are attached to the patient’s chest which are connected to a recorder. However, the Holter monitor is a battery powered device that can be carried anywhere the patient goes. The goal of the Holter monitor is to collect longer-term data than an EKG, thus hurdling one of the EKGs most significant barriers.
A Holter monitor can record for up to three days, at which point the data will be downloaded to our office, analyzed and we can learn more about the patient’s heart rhythm and if any arrhythmias do indeed exist.
The limitations of a Holter Monitor
Unfortunately, while the Holter monitor is much more useful than an EKG for longer term data collection, it still has its limitations. First, because it is an external monitor, it can be rather cumbersome for the patient to carry. Modern Holter monitors are much smaller than they used to be, but the patient still has to modify their lifestyle somewhat to make sure that it works appropriately.
Secondly, being that a Holter monitor only lasts for about 3 days, that still may not be enough to find certain paroxysmal or occasional arrhythmia episodes. Some patients may only get an episode once a year or every few months. Clearly, the Holter monitor would not be useful in these cases. Patients may instead benefit from an even longer-term data collection device such as a loop recorder or an event monitor.