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By NorthShore—Edward-Elmhurst Health
When your heart rhythm feels off, it can be unsettling.
For many patients, it’s reassuring to know there is technology that can keep heart experts connected to their heartbeat 24 hours a day.
The Midwest Cardiovascular Institute (MCI) uses wearable devices to monitor patient heartbeats with a great deal of success.
“It gives patients peace of mind knowing someone is watching what’s happening with their heart,” said Cash Casey, MD, a cardiologist with MCI at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
Wearable heart monitoring
One option is a wearable heart monitor, a single-lead strip that is placed on a patient’s skin and transmits a continuous record of cardiac activity for seven days. Telemetry technicians monitor the patient’s heart rate in the MCI Virtual Care Center 24/7.
This option is best for people who have sporadic symptoms, as the continuous monitoring allows their doctor to see any changes in heart rate over time.
“Technicians place the monitor, teach the patient how to use it and all the data goes to the Virtual Care Center where technicians are looking at the data 24-7,” Casey said.
Another option is a Holter monitor, a small wearable monitor that records heart activity for 24 to 48 hours. Patients with more consistent, frequent symptoms benefit from this type of monitor because it’s more likely to record changes in cardiac activity over a short period of time.
Patients return the monitor after 24 to 48 hours and technicians download the recorded activity.
For longer-term monitoring, there are implantable wireless cardiac monitor Loop monitors.
Four cardiac device companies make different models of Loop monitors, which are about one-third the size of an AAA battery, allows physicians to monitor a patient’s irregular heartbeat for up to three years while remaining undetectable under the patient’s skin.
The monitor is placed just below the skin via an incision that is less than 1 cm long and is barely noticeable once inserted. The monitor transmits data to a patient’s physician, who can request notifications to alert them if the patient is having a cardiac event.
Each night while the patient sleeps, information stored on the monitor is wirelessly transmitted to physicians via a remote monitoring system. While the device stores a record of cardiac activity each day, the patient also has a handheld device they can use to alert their doctor if they feel unusual cardiac activity, such as an irregular heartbeat or a fainting episode.
Some of the implantable Loop monitors allow patients to use their smart phone to send their heart rhythm information to their physician’s office.
“This wearable technology has been a game-changer when it comes to monitoring an irregular heartbeat,” Casey said.
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