Arrhythmia Detection and Diagnosis

Diagnosing your arrhythmia

Scripps cardiac electrophysiologists are experts in diagnosing and treating arrhythmias. They can help address symptoms and causes, as well as lessen or eliminate this dangerous heart condition.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG TEST)

An electrocardiogram is a non-invasive way to record the heart’s electrical system including the activation of heartbeats. It is used to detect and diagnose heart arrhythmias, which are when the heart beats too fast or too slow because of a dysfunction of the heart’s electrical system.

Testing details

An EKG test is a snapshot (3 seconds) of the heart’s electrical activity. The test is performed through the placement of a series of electrical sensors (electrodes) on the patient’s chest. The sensors simultaneously record the heart’s electrical signals from multiple angles and provide a heart “tracing” that can be interpreted by physicians.

Often times, heart arrhythmias are paroxysmal, which means they only occur intermittently. In these cases, patients wear a heart monitor (mobile telemetry) to record the heart’s electrical activity continuously and provide physicians the information needed to make a diagnosis.

Event monitor (mobile telemetry)

Cardiac event monitor is a term for the continuous monitoring of heart rhythms to record intermittent episodes or heart arrhythmias. Such arrhythmias are considered “paroxysmal” meaning they do not occur at predictable times.

Testing details

Event monitor is performed in three primary ways:

  • Holter monitor involves a series of adhesive stickers with wire electrodes that are placed on the patient’s chest beneath the clothing. The electrodes are connected with wires to a small recorder the patient can clip to clothing or carry in a pocket. The device can continuously record the heart rhythm for up to a month. Most feature a button that patients can push to indicate they are having an episode. The device may also be linked to a monitoring center that contacts a patient and physician when abnormal rhythms occur.
  • A patch monitor is a smaller device that is completely self-contained in one small adhesive patch placed on the patient’s chest under her or his clothing. This patch is waterproof and remains in place up to 14 days, after which it is mailed to the patient’s physician and recordings reviewed.
  • Implantable loop recorder (ILR) is a small recorder that is inserted under the patient’s skin and can monitor abnormal heart rhythms for up to 3 years. Once an abnormal rhythm is detected, the device automatically sends data to the physician through a small, wireless console. The console is kept close by, especially at night so that it can record abnormal heart rhythms during sleep.