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Continuous Heart Monitoring: About This Test

Adhesive patch heart monitor and normal EKG readout

What is it?

A continuous heart monitor is a small device that you wear. It records the electrical activity of your heart. "Continuous" means that it records your heartbeats the whole time you're wearing it.

The test is done with a monitor that is an adhesive patch. Your doctor will place it on the skin of your chest.

The device will give your doctor the same kind of information as an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). An EKG shows the heart's electrical activity as line tracings on paper.

Why is this test done?

This test is used to look for heartbeats that are too fast, too slow, or irregular. Many people have abnormal heartbeats from time to time. Because these kinds of heartbeats can come and go, it may be hard to record one while you are in the doctor's office. Wearing a heart monitor for a longer time and during your whole day makes it easier to record your abnormal heartbeats.

This test can help your doctor find out what is causing symptoms such as chest pain, fainting, or light-headedness. It also can help him or her check to see if treatment for an abnormal heartbeat is working.

How is the test done?

  • The skin on your chest where the monitor will go will be shaved and cleaned.
  • Your doctor will place the monitor on your skin.
  • The monitor will record the activity of your heart for the whole time that you have it. Your doctor will explain which type of monitor you have and how he or she will get the information from your monitor.

How is the monitor used?

  • You may be able to do most of the things you normally do. But try to follow your doctor's instructions for exercise and other daily activities. He or she will also let you know if you need to do anything when you have symptoms.
  • Be careful not to wear the device in a bath, hot tub, or pool. It's okay if it gets a little wet in the shower.

How long will you wear the monitor?

You may wear the device for 1 to 2 weeks or longer. It depends on how long your doctor wants to check your heart.

What happens after the test?

  • Your doctor will tell you what to do with your monitor when the test is done.
  • You'll meet with your doctor to talk about what was recorded during your test.
  • Your doctor may talk with you about other tests or treatment options.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

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