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What Is a Cardiac Event Monitor?

What is Pediatric Cardiac Event Monitoring?

A heart (or cardiac) event monitor is a small, portable device that records the heart’s electrical activity for up to 30 days. Doctors use a cardiac event monitor to see whether your child is having unusual heart rates or rhythms (arrhythmias). Cardiac event monitoring is painless and noninvasive, which means it doesn’t enter your child’s body.

The heart’s electrical system controls the heart’s rate and rhythm by sending mild electric signals through heart muscle. These signals trigger the heart’s chambers to pump blood through the heart and to the lungs and body.

The way the monitor works is similar to an electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG). A standard, or resting, EKG measures and records the heart’s electrical activity to check for problems with heart rates (too fast or too slow) or rhythms (steady or irregular). At Pediatric Heart Specialists (PHS), a standard electrocardiogram is one of the first steps we take to evaluate your child’s heart.

Because a standard EKG records for only a few seconds, it may miss symptoms that don’t happen all the time. Cardiac event monitoring can capture unusual heart activity and symptoms that occur only weekly or monthly.

What is an event monitor used for in children?

If our pediatric cardiologists suspect that your child may have an arrhythmia, we may recommend an event monitor. Cardiac event monitoring can help if:

  • Your child experiences symptoms that happen randomly, infrequently or only during certain activities.
  • A standard EKG and a Holter monitor don’t provide enough information to diagnose a heart condition.

We use a cardiac event recorder to help diagnose arrhythmia by evaluating symptoms such as:

  • Heart palpitations (racing, pounding or skipping heartbeats)
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness

If your child experiences symptoms more often, we may recommend a Holter monitor, which records continuously for periods of 24 hours to 14 days. Your child wears a Holter monitor to capture heart symptoms that happen daily or several times a week.

How does a cardiac event monitor work?

A heart event monitor can record unusual electrical activity in your child’s heart for 30 days. While wearing the device, your child activates the recording whenever they notice symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat.

You’ll bring your child to our office to get the event monitor, which includes:

  • Small, sticky patches (electrodes) that attach painlessly to your child’s chest
  • A small device that looks like a cell phone

At PHS, we use wireless event monitors so the electrodes transmit wirelessly to the device. The electrodes stay on your child’s chest for the 30-day testing period. Your child can put the device in their pocket or clip it to their clothing. It may have a strap and pouch so they can wear it around their neck or over their shoulder.

We typically use auto-trigger event monitors, which:

  • Monitor the heart’s electrical activity anytime your child is wearing the device
  • Automatically record unusual heart symptoms that happen rarely or during sleep
  • Allow you or your child to trigger the device manually when they feel symptoms

After we set up the event monitor, we provide you and your child with instructions about how to:

  • Keep the electrodes attached to your child's skin
  • Trigger the device and indicate the specific symptoms
  • Check the device for problems
  • Contact someone if you need help with the monitor

Helpful tips for cardiac event monitoring

  • Keep the monitor and electrodes dry. Take the device off your child before they bathe, shower or swim.
  • Try to prevent electrical interference on the recording:
    • Don’t use electrical appliances, such as electric razors, hair dryers or electric toothbrushes, near your child.
    • Avoid electric blankets, electric heating pads, metal detectors and areas with high-voltage electrical wires.
    • Avoid equipment with strong magnets, such as MRI machines.

Results of pediatric cardiac event monitoring

The event monitor transmits data whenever your child is wearing it and it’s in cellular service. The device company monitors the recordings as they come in, in real time. A company representative calls us if the recordings show that your child is having unusual heart symptoms.

After the 30-day testing period, the company sends us the test results to evaluate for diagnosis. We review the results with you and begin planning the next steps in your child’s care.

What are the risks of cardiac event monitoring in children?

Cardiac event monitoring is a safe, painless, noninvasive test. The only risk is skin irritation or an allergic reaction to the adhesive on the electrodes. We can provide electrodes for sensitive skin, if you request them.