Atrial fibrillation (AFib) may lead to serious consequences. The complications occur due to ineffective treatment and lack of management. AFib patients often need a heart monitor to monitor their condition. Heart monitors also help evaluate the treatment effectiveness. This kind of device was created specifically to detect irregularities. But not all devices are the same. In this post, we’re going to focus on heart monitor implants for AFib. We will also discuss conventional monitors and their advantages or disadvantages.
What Is an Implantable Heart Monitor?
An implantable cardiac monitor (ICM) is also known as an implantable loop recorder. It is a heart-monitoring device that records heart rhythm for three or up to 4.5 years. Placed under the skin on the chest, ICM captures information that ECG or Holter monitor may miss. This is especially the case with brief or infrequent arrhythmias.
Thanks to the ICM, a doctor can monitor remotely a patient’s heartbeat during normal daily activities.
These monitors are evolving. They will keep doing so with the improvements in technology.
For example, in April 2021, the first patient in the Netherlands was implanted with a subcutaneous Bluetooth monitor.
This monitor allows doctors and patients to see real-time data. In the near future, these devices will be implanted in many other patients.
What Are Conventional Heart Monitors?
The term conventional heart monitor here refers to several devices. Among these, the most well-known is Holter monitors.
A Holter monitor is a portable ECG device a patient carries in the pocket, on a belt or shoulder strap. It records heart activity, usually for 24 hours.
Other conventional heart monitors include mobile cardiac telemetry (MCT) monitors, patch type monitors.
They are not the same as implanted cardiac monitors. These devices are battery-operated. Patients wear them on the body (not inside). Conventional monitors are more frequently employed on AFib patients.
Are Implantable Heart Monitors More Effective?
Both types of heart monitors are used in patients with AFib. But, studies comparing them side by side are still lacking. One study on this subject is still ongoing. It will be interesting to see their feelings. Scientists from Australia explained the disadvantages of conventional heart monitors such as Holter monitors. They fail to detect and document transient or brief episodes of AFib. The sensitivity of these devices to detect AFib episodes is quite low.
Implantable devices have a greater sensitivity. They can detect the onset of arrhythmic episodes in asymptomatic persons.
The implanted monitors are under the skin. That gives them a sort of advantage. The ICMs may provide important physiological data in patients with different conditions. The hopes for these devices are to do more than heart monitoring.
Studies Proving That
It’s also useful to mention a study from EP Europace. The study found dual-chamber permanent pacemakers are the gold standard for the detection and monitoring of AFib. And yet, they aren’t primarily implanted for this purpose. They have a high false-positive rate for the detection of AFib episodes. This limits the use of these devices for precise AFib monitoring in patients.
As far as Holter monitors are concerned, studies show they can identify AFib in one in 17 patients. Research also showed Holter monitors could detect pacemaker disturbances in 23 out of 100 patients. On the other hand, implantable heart monitors have a greater detection rate.
One study from April 2020 found implantable loop recorders had a low false-positive value. They also had a high positive predictive value for AFib events. But the study was limited to identifying atrial tachyarrhythmias.
The latest piece of evidence on this subject comes from a study published in the June 2021 issue of JAMA. The study focused on patients with ischemic stroke and no prior evidence of AFib. Scientists compared the effectiveness of implantable heart monitoring and prolonged external monitoring.
Wearing implants for 12 months led to the detection of AFib in a higher proportion of patients.
Implantable Heart Monitor Pros and Cons
Implantable heart monitors make the process of monitoring heart function more consistent. The reason is simple – the device is planted under the skin. That’s why it’s more practical than conventional heart monitors. Conventional monitors track heart function for a short period of time only.
Moreover, implantable heart monitors have higher sensitivity. This makes them more capable of detecting irregularities.
Besides significant benefits and advantages, implantable heart monitors have some shortcomings too.
They have the potential to record noise. Also, the amount of storage is finite.
The ICMs are not suitable for every patient. Some patient-specific features may affect the signal quality. Plus, ICMs are on the expensive side.
Conventional Heart Monitors Pros and Cons
Conventional heart monitors are relatively inexpensive compared to ICMs. They are usually a part of the diagnostic process recommended by the doctor.
To monitor heart activity with this device, a patient doesn’t need a minor surgical procedure. It’s safe, comes with no side effects, and is painless.
Although, they usually require a short duration of monitoring (24 to 48 hours). This is sometimes not enough to detect irregularities in heart activity. Since you can’t get the monitor wet, you can’t shower, bathe, or swim when wearing a Holter monitor. However, UPOlife Wearable Biosensor Patch can monitor the heart for up to 168 hours and it’s waterproof. This device provides:
- Full Medical & Wellness analytics;
- European Cardiologist Signed Report;
- Two-channel ECG/EKG;
- Heart Rate / Heart Rate Variability.
Monitoring AFib patients involves the use of heart monitors. The heart monitors can be implantable or wearable devices. Implantable cardiac monitors have higher sensitivity. As a result, they are more effective at detecting irregularities. But they also have some shortcomings. The doctor recommends the best approach to AFib monitoring for each patient. These recommendations depend on their health, severity of the condition, and risk of complications.