Diagnosing abnormal heart rhythms, known as arrhythmias, can be challenging because the heart doesn’t always cooperate. But a recent purchase by Mount Desert Island Hospital allows patients to capture information about their own heart, making diagnosis of a potentially deadly disorder easier.
Worn outside the hospital, the new device, known as a cardiac event monitor records a patient’s heart rhythm the moment symptoms occur. The patient activates it with the push of a button when he or she experiences symptoms such as dizziness, palpitations, shortness of breath, fainting spells or chest pain.
“Most arrhythmias are temporary and benign,”xs said MDI Hospital respiratory therapist Ray Turner. “But some can be life-threatening and require treatment.”
“Since an irregular heart beat and its symptoms might not last long enough or occur frequently enough to go to the hospital for an electrocardiogram (EKG), cardiac event monitoring can help us more effectively pinpoint the cause,” said Turner.
A similar device, the Holter monitor, is used to record heart irregularities that occur frequently. However, it uses 10 electrodes instead of one used by the event monitor, and it can only be used for 24 to 48 hours, versus up to 30 days with the event monitor. “Some symptoms only occur once or twice a month, so we need a monitor to provide us with that range,” said Turner.
In addition to being more effective for capturing intermittent symptoms, the event monitor is more convenient for the patients. “It uses fewer wires than the Holter monitor and patients can take it off to bathe,” said Turner.
“During the time the monitor is worn, patients are encouraged to go about their usual activities, but will be asked to record their symptoms when they activate the event recorder,” he added.
The Hospital has six of the devices, which are less than the size of a deck of cards and can be worn around the neck or placed in their pocket. When a patient is having an event, he or she just pushes a button to record what is happening with the heart and the recorded data can then be sent over the phone to doctors to analyze. “We ask patients to wear the monitor as much as possible to catch any cardiac event that might occur,” said Turner.
During the recording period a Hospital physician reviews the transmitted data and determines what if any action is required. At the end of the recording period, a Hospital physician trained in cardiac care will review the recordings and communicate findings to the referring physician.
“Our new cardiac event monitor is not only an important diagnostic tool in the prevention and treatment of abnormal cardiac rhythm,” said Turner, “it’s also a more patient-friendly approach to care.”