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Telemetry vs. Heart Monitor

By Rachel Nall

You rely on a regular heart rhythm to supply blood and oxygen to your tissues. When you experience symptoms related to an abnormal heartbeat, your physician may recommend testing to measure your regular heart rhythms. Two methods of heart rate measurement are standard heart monitoring or a telemetry monitor that can measure your heart rate without having to remove the monitor.

Significance

Standard heart monitoring, through a device known as a Holter monitor, involves attaching electrodes to your chest that are connected to a recording device. This monitor can be worn for 24 to 48 hours at a time, but must be removed in order to view the heart rhythms measured, according to MedlinePlus. Like a Holter monitor, a telemetry monitor is worn around the chest. However, a telemetry monitor transmits signals to a nursing station or other monitoring center that eliminates the need for a patient to remove the monitor.

Function

While an imaging test known as an electrocardiogram can measure heart rhythms, this test only measures for a short period of time. A Holter heart monitor detects and records irregularities in your heart for a longer time period. Your physician also may ask you to keep a heart monitor diary noting times you missed heartbeats, shortness of breath, chest pain or more, according to MayoClinic.com. Telemetry monitors also detect heart rhythm irregularities, but instead of recording them, the monitor transmits the abnormal signal to a physician’s office or other monitoring area.

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Benefits

Telemetry monitors can provide a cardiac patient a certain degree of freedom when compared with a Holter monitor. When monitored at a hospital, telemetry-monitored patients require less oxygen assistance and less bedside monitoring, according to Banner Health Services. Telemetry patients also can be monitored from their home via phone lines. Because this monitoring type is instantaneous, a nurse or doctor can contact a patient when heart rhythms become abnormal. Standard heart monitoring does not provide a monitored response. However, Holter monitoring is beneficial for patients who may have heart issues that do not require continuous monitoring.

Drawbacks

Because Holter monitors are worn for a specific range of time -- ranging from 12 hours to three days -- they may not be able to diagnose symptoms that occur infrequently, according to Aetna's consumer health education website. Wearing a telemetry heart monitor allows you to be monitored for longer durations of time. Also, a Holter monitor requires you to turn in the monitor in order to receive results, which can be inconvenient. Wearing a telemetry monitor can represent an inconvenience because it is must be removed and patches reapplied after taking a shower.

Warning

Both Holter monitors and telemetry monitors require special care to avoid damaging the monitor or compromising results. If the patches are not affixed securely enough, the monitor may not read heart rhythms as effectively. Extended use for the heart monitor also can cause red and itchy skin to develop, according to Corning Hospital. For both monitor types, you should avoid getting the monitor wet or using cosmetic spray or powder products near the monitor.

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