Ambulatory electrocardiography records the electrical activity of your heart while you perform your routine activities. A number of heart problems that tend to get missed out during electrocardiocraphy at rest can be detected by this method. It has now been well established that activities like eating, exercise, stress, sex, straining to pass urine or stools, and sleeping are known to affect the heart's rate, rhythm, as well as function. It therefore becomes necessary to record your electrocardiogram continuously for 24 hours in order to detect abnormal heart beats.
Ambulatory recorders may be continuous or intermittent in nature. While continuous recorders are used to record electrical signals from your heart continuously for 24-72 hours at a stretch, intermittent recorders are used when the abnormal heart rhythms do not occur frequently. It can be used for a longer period of time as compared to continuous recorders. Two types of intermittent recorders are available, namely loop recorders and event recorders.
Loop recorders constantly measure your heart beats. You have to manually press a button on the monitor to record your heart activity when you experience any discomfort. Event recorders are used only when a patient develops distressing symptoms. In these caes, the machine is not attached to your body; instead, it is either worn on the wrist like a watch or carried as a device in your purse or pocket. Whenever you begin to manifest any signs of symptoms, you have to switch on the button of the device and press it against your chest to start recording.
An ambulatory electrocardiogram helps the cardiologist to detect irregular heartbeats that occur intermittently or only during certain activities. It is also done to detect the probable cause behind chest pain, dizziness, or fainting, which may possibly be symptoms of heart disease. The test can tell whether the blood flow to your heart muscles is poor (ischemia). It can also be used to monitor the progress of a heart patient undergoing treatment for irregular heartbeats.
In continuous recording, a battery-operated monitor is strapped to your shoulder and around your waist. Electrodes attached to your chest detect the electrical signals from your heart. There is a clock attached to the monitor, which records the exact time when the symptoms developed. Even under normal circumstances, there are fluctuations in the heart rate. For example, it may increase during exercise and decrease when you are asleep.
Such monitors are of great help in detecting abnormally slow or fast heart rhythms. Thus, if a slow heart rhythm is detected in a person fitted with a pacemaker, it can be concluded that the pacemaker is not working properly. If abnormal patterns are observed, it may indicate that the oxygen supply to the muscles of the heart is insufficient. There are no considerable risks involved in monitory the heart rhythm by ambulatory electrocardiography. The current that flows through the electrodes is very low in intensity; so, you cannot get an electric shock.
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