Implantable loop recorders (ILRs) are medical recording devices that can be surgically placed under the skin of the chest. These small devices, which function similarly to an electrocardiogram, continually monitor electrical signals from the heart and automatically record any pattern changes. This data, which can be reviewed remotely, can help a cardiac electrophysiologist detect and evaluate heart rhythm issues (arrhythmias).
The use of ILRs may be appropriate under a number of circumstances. For instance, at FMC Cardiology — Electrophysiology, Paul Z. Gerczuk, M.D. often recommends loop recorders for patients who are experiencing unexplained symptoms like:
- Fainting (syncope)
- Recurrent palpitations
- Prior stroke or mini stroke
Loop recorders are fully customizable and can record the electrical activity of the heart in two ways. First, a device can be activated automatically according to heart rate ranges that are programmed by Dr. Gerczuk. If the patient’s heart rate falls below the lowest value set or rises above the highest value set, the device will begin recording the heart’s electrical activity.
Second, the patient can actively trigger the recording function by pressing a button on an external “activator” at any time, such as when he or she is experiencing symptoms like palpitations, lightheadedness, or dizziness.
Because many loop recorders have a three-to-four-year battery life, a patient’s heart rhythms can be monitored continually over an extended period of time. Therefore, ILRs can help answer questions about a patient’s heart function that other monitoring devices often cannot. For instance, loop recorders can detect arrhythmias that may be missed by standard electrocardiograms because the rhythm issues occur very infrequently. This can aid the diagnostic process and allow for more prompt treatment.
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