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Ambulatory Cardiac Monitoring
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Ambulatory Cardiac Monitoring Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


Ambulatory cardiac monitoring is a way to watch and record the electrical activity of your heart. It is done as you go about your daily activities. Most of the recording devices are roughly the size of a pager or cell phone.

Heartbeat on EKG Monitor
Heartbeat on EKG Monitor
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

You will first be evaluated by a doctor. An EKG , which is a test to check the electrical activity of your heart, will likely be done in the office.

Description of Test

The test steps will depend on the type of device used:

  • Holter monitoring—A small device will be strapped to you. Wires from the device will be attached to electrodes on your chest. Electrodes are small adhesive pads. You may be taught to replace them or asked not to remove them during the monitor period. You will be instructed to keep a diary of your activities for the next 24 hours. You will then return the device and your diary for analysis. Some devices have an event button. You will push the button each time you have concerning symptoms.
  • Looping monitor—The electrode may be a wrist band, finger attachment, or chest plate. This device records several minutes at a time, then starts over. You will be instructed to push a button during or after an event to preserve the recording. For longer periods of monitoring, there is an implantable version. This electrode is surgically placed under your skin.
  • Event recorder—This device is only used when you have symptoms. The device can be a wrist band with an activation button or a pager-sized device you press onto your chest. Some of these are connected to a 24-hour-a-day central base that can immediately detect and respond to the event when you activate the signal.
  • CardioNet (mobile cardiac outpatient telemetry)—A special service monitors your heartbeat continuously. It will respond immediately if it detects a serious event.

Certain environmental interferences should be avoided, including: magnets, metal detectors, high-voltage wires, radio frequency signalers, microwave ovens, electric blankets, electric toothbrushes, and electric razors.

After Test

After the procedure, you will return the equipment.

How Long Will It Take?

A typical interval is 24 hours. If your problem is less frequent than that, you may need to be monitored for a longer period of time. Longer monitoring often requires different devices.

Will It Hurt?

This test will not hurt. Sometimes removing the electrodes can be uncomfortable.


The information recorded by the monitor will be evaluated. Your doctor will let you know if you need any further tests or treatment based on the study.



American Heart Association

National Library of Medicine


Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

Mount Sinai Hospital, Canada


Abbott AV. Diagnostic Approach to Palpitations. American Family Physician. 2005;71. Available at: . Accessed August 19, 2005.

ACC/AHA clinical competence statement on electrocardiography and ambulatory electrocardiography. American College of Cardiology website. Available at: . Accessed August 19, 2005.

Ambulatory monitors. Cleveland Clinic Heart Center website. Available at: . Accessed August 19, 2005.



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