Both Holter monitors and mobile cardiac telemetry (MCT) provide ways to monitor a patient’s electrocardiogram for an extended period of time. Their main purpose is to determine the cause of a transient event by recording a patient’s heart rate and rhythm during normal activity. Although similar, Holter monitors and MCT devices have distinctive differences and meet different needs, which impacts the physician’s choice of monitoring method. We’ve outlined some of the differences below:
A Holter monitor typically records cardiac activity for an uninterrupted 24-48 hours, although some are prescribed for up to 14 days. It is ideal for the patient who is experiencing symptoms on a more frequent or regular basis and whose condition does not require continuous monitoring.
Mobile cardiac telemetry is prescribed for a period up to 30 days. It is typically prescribed for patients with rare or intermittent episodes, or those who may be asymptomatic. The extended wear time allows for the opportunity to capture an arrhythmia that may not occur during a shortened wear time and is also helpful in identifying a silent pattern of irregular cardiac activity.
Holter monitors are designed to continuously record data. While their limited wear time reduces the inconvenience for patients, it’s also one of the reasons a Holter may be returned as non-diagnostic, or benign. Most often, this is because symptoms may not reappear during the time in which the Holter is monitoring the patient’s heart rhythm.
Telemetry devices offer a variety of recording methods. Many MCT devices are continually listening, recording every heartbeat for up to 30 days, and provide atrial fibrillation burden assessment.
Devices can store their data either locally or in the cloud. The data collected from a Holter monitor is stored on an internal chip and is limited in terms of space, but sufficient for the prescribed wear time.
Telemetry device storage varies. It can be stored locally or transmit the information to the cloud, as long as there is a strong cell signal present. This feature is significant because the data can be read in real time and irregularities can be addressed immediately. This difference is especially prominent when compared to the 7-14 day Holter monitors. Any irregularity identified with a Holter monitor will not be read until the monitor is returned and analyzed at the end of the prescribed wear time, which could potentially be up to 20 days later.
Both Holter monitors and telemetry devices require leads that are attached to the patient. Holter monitors typically require more leads and tend to be more bulky. As a result of the technology it uses, a telemetry device is smaller, sleeker and easier to wear.
There are also differences in the ways the devices are powered. Based on the amount of wear time, Holter monitors may have batteries that need to be changed. Newer telemetry device models are rechargeable. They typically include two batteries, one to wear while the other is charging.
Depending upon your symptoms, or lack thereof, your physician will prescribe the appropriate monitoring device. Both are completely painless and are considered highly effective ways to identify potential heart issues and to help determine the appropriate treatment.