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Heart monitors are used to monitor the rhythm and rate of the heart and are useful in determining any abnormalities. This lesson will discuss types and interpretation of cardiac monitoring tools.

Heart Arrhythmia

John is a 60-year-old man who has just been diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia called paroxysmal bradycardia.

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John’s cardiologist explains that he has an occasional low heart rate that causes him to feel light headed and pass out for several seconds. She wants to see how frequently this is happening to John’s heart, so they discuss the different types of cardiac monitoring tools available.

Types of Cardiac Monitoring Tools

Cardiac monitoring tools are devices that monitor the heart to help identify any arrhythmias, including irregular heartbeats, fast or slow heartbeats, and pauses. There are several different kinds of monitors; some are used in a hospital setting and others are use at home during everyday activity.Some heart arrhythmias are lethal while others are treatable or manageable on their own. Cardiac monitoring tools helps patients recognize if there are symptoms related to the arrhythmia.

They detect the heart’s electrical activity and transmit the waveform of the heartbeat.

Normal heart waveform
heart waveform

John has occasional bradycardia where his heart beats slowly, and may be caused by a heart block. A cardiac monitor will help determine exactly what his heart is doing.

Electrocardiogram (EKG)

An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a machine that uses ten wires that attach to the chest, arms, and legs using stickers called electrodes. The patient is attached to the EKG machine and the wires transmit the heart’s waveform to a screen where it is then printed out.

It takes no more than fifteen minutes to complete.Most EKG’s provide a 12-lead view of the heart. It is done intermittently and is helpful in detecting any abnormalities and where they are occurring. EKG’s are helpful in determining if there has been a myocardial infarction and what part of the heart has been affected.

Electrocardiogram cardiac monitoring tool

Bedside Monitor or Telemetry Monitor

A bedside monitor is a machine that is used in the hospital setting at the patient’s bedside.

It uses five or six wires attached to electrodes on the chest to display the heart’s waveform. A bedside monitor is continuous, and, with additional attachments, it can also monitor blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and respiration.A bedside monitor can also transmit information to other computer screens outside the room. A telemetry monitor is a portable device that is attached to the patient, making it possible for the patient to move around while it transmits information. This machine only monitors the heart, but both of these devices are used to show a continuous heart rhythm to detect any abnormalities.

John was monitored with a telemetry monitor during his 24-hour stay at the hospital. It detected occasional periods of bradycardia while John was sleeping, but he did not appear to have any symptoms. A monitor that he can wear outside of the hospital will be beneficial.

Holter Monitors

A holter monitor can be placed in a pocket or clipped to a belt while it continuously records the heart rhythm for 24-48 hours.

It can be used in or out of the hospital and uses wires and electrodes attached to the chest to record the data, which can be reviewed at a later time.There are also wireless holter monitors that allow longer recording times and directly transmit recorded data to the doctor or monitoring company. It is important for the patient to record any symptoms to identify the arrhythmia.

Holter monitor that transmits data to the doctor
Holter monitor

Event Monitors

There are several different types of event monitors, which are portable, small monitors that do not continuously record heart rhythm data. They usually require the patient to push a button when they feel symptoms so the monitor can begin to record data.

Some monitors are able to detect arrhythmias and begin recording on their own. These monitors are useful in recording heart rhythms during symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, or palpitations. Different types of event monitors include:

  • Postevent recorders: This monitor is worn as a watch or in the pocket and is placed on the chest after a symptom occurs.

    No wires are used.

  • Pre-symptom memory loop recorder: This monitor is a small, pocket-sized device connecting wires to the chest. It is constantly recording in loops, erasing data at intervals.

    A button is pressed after a symptom is felt and the recorder saves that data.

  • Autodetect recorders: This is a small, wired monitor that is able to detect abnormal rhythms and automatically records and transmits data.
  • Implantable loop recorder: This monitor is implanted under the skin on the chest. It has no wires and can be controlled by the patient to record or be set to autodetect arrhythmias and record.

John does not want anything implanted or long term.

He also does not always recognize symptoms before passing out. His cardiologist recommends the autodetect recorder for him to wear over the course of two weeks.

Lesson Summary

Cardiac monitoring tools are used to detect arrhythmias of the heart. They can be used both in and out of the hospital setting.

Monitor Setting Special features
electrocardiogram (EKG) hospital 15 minute process that provides a 12- lead view of the heart.

Transmits to a screen where it can be printed out.

bedside monitor hospital continuous monitoring that can also monitor blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and respiration.
telemetry monitor hospital portable device that continuously monitors the heart, but no other functions.
holter monitor in or out of hospital pocket monitor with wires to the chest that continuously records for 24-48 hours

Portable monitors seen outside the hospital are event monitors, which also record data and come in different types:

  • postevent recorders – placed on the chest to record data after a symptom
  • pre-symptom memory loop recorders – connected via wire and records in erased loops until the patient pushes a button to save information after a symptom begins
  • autodetect recorders – records on its own
  • implantable loop recorders – implanted under the skin and can be set to auto or patient controlled.

Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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