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What to Expect When a Cardiovascular Doctor Orders a Holter Monitor

When a cardiovascular doctor recommends Holter monitoring, many patients are unfamiliar with the test.  Understanding what to expect can greatly reduce patient anxiety about this procedure.

What Exactly is a Holter Monitor?

A Holter monitor is a device patients wear to track heart rhythm.  Test results are important tools in helping cardiologists make diagnoses.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the test is noninvasive and painless.

This portable device is a type of electrocardiogram (ECG).  The American Heart Association indicates that it is roughly the size of a small camera and records heart activity for 24 or more hours.

Changes in an ECG can signal various cardiac conditions.  A Holter monitor records electrical impulses that coordinate heart contractions.  The information it collects shows:

  • How fast a heart is beating
  • A steady or an irregular beat rhythm
  • Timing and strength of impulses as they travel through the heart

Why Cardiologists Order It

A standard ECG in a doctor’s office only records heart activity at a single point in time.  Holter monitoring allows cardiologists to evaluate heartbeats over an extended period.

The data collected provides physicians with information such as:

  • Whether current medications are effective
  • Why a patient experiences symptoms like dizziness, feeling faint, or sensing a skipped heartbeat or a racing heart
  • Whether the heart is getting a sufficient supply of oxygen

Doctors order this test when symptoms such as low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and heart palpitations persist, but a resting ECG cannot detect a precise reason, Johns Hopkins Medicine reports.  Other common reasons include evaluating chest pain not duplicated with exercise testing, assessing the risk of future cardiac issues, monitoring heart rate after a heart attack, and determining whether an implanted pacemaker is effective.

The Monitoring Process

At a patient's appointment, a staff member will ask that jewelry and any other objects that could interfere with the test be removed.  The patient removes clothing from the waist up and changes into a gown so that a technician can affix electrodes to the chest.

It is sometimes necessary to shave to clip hair so that the electrodes will adhere properly.  The technician also attaches electrodes to the abdomen.  Wires connect them to the Holter device, which patients wear over the shoulder, around the waist, or clipped to a pocket or belt.  Since the device operates on batteries, it is important that patients carry extra batteries and know how to change them.  Patients cannot swim, shower, or bathe while wearing the monitor.

After getting instructions, a patient returns to normal activities unless the physician advises otherwise.  Monitoring requires keeping a patient diary of activities and symptoms noted that will be matched to the data collected.  At the end of the test, the individual returns to the practice to have electrodes removed.

 

5 Types of Venous Disease

Your veins do something amazing. Everyday, they fight against gravity, pumping blood up to your heart. Given the forces working against their veins, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that many people develop some form of venous disease or another. Vein disease develops when your veins have difficulty pumping the blood back to the heart. The walls of the veins might be weak or the valves damaged. Get to know a few types of common vein problems.

Examples of Vein Disease

Varicose Veins or Spider Veins

When you think of vein problems, spider veins or varicose veins are probably what comes to mind first. That shouldn't be much of a surprise, since about half of the population has or will have varicose or spider veins, according to the Office on Women's Health. Varicose veins form when the valves in the veins don't work as they should. Blood is allowed to flow backwards down the legs, causing the veins to bulge and twist.

Spider veins form when there is a backup of blood in the tiny vessels near the skin. Usually, spider veins are much smaller than varicose veins. They can also develop on the face and can form as a result of sun exposure.

Superficial Venous Reflux

Another common problem in the veins is superficial venous reflux. It's also known as venous insufficiency. When a person has venous reflux, the blood doesn't make its way up the legs to the heart. Instead, it pools in the veins, causing swelling, darkening of the skin and a feeling of pain or pressure in the legs. Venous insufficiency is often connected to varicose veins, but usually the symptoms it causes are much worse.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, develops when a blood clot forms deep in a person's veins, usually in the legs. Several things can put a person at an increased risk for developing DVT, including an inherited blood clotting disorder, hormonal birth control and sitting still for long periods of time, such as on a flight.

Some people with DVT don't have any symptoms. Others might have pain or swelling in the affected leg. The major concern with DVT is that the clot will come loose and travel to the lung, causing a pulmonary embolism, a potentially life threatening problem. For that reason, treating the clot early is usually the best course of action. A doctor might prescribe blood thinners or other medications to reduce the clot or compression stockings to help with swelling.

At Premier Heart and Vein Care, Dr. Ken Stevens offers patients with vein disease a variety of treatment options. To learn more about vein problems and the options for treatment, call 1-805-979-4777 to schedule a consultation today.

 

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