The doctor may recommend a heart monitor to patients with existing heart problems or persons with arrhythmia symptoms such as heart palpitations, fainting, or dizziness. One of the most commonly discussed devices of this kind is a loop monitor. In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about loop monitor and its advantages and disadvantages.
What Is a Loop Monitor?
A Loop heart monitor is a non-invasive device that records the heart’s electrical activity while a patient is performing everyday activities.
Information obtained by a loop monitor is necessary to detect heart irregularities and abnormalities.
Doctors used data from loop monitors to adjust patients’ medications, get a closer insight into their heart activity, or match symptoms they experience with heart function.
“Standard” cardiac monitors, such as Holter monitors, may be ineffective for long-term heart rate monitoring.
The reason is simple, heart rate irregularities are unannounced and unpredictable and may occur suddenly at any given time, so it would be difficult for a patient to be ready.
As a result, these heart monitors would miss out on some abnormalities in heart rate.
Loop cardiac monitors pose a more practical option that navigates around the abovementioned problems. They can be external or internal (implantable).
These devices make use of circular memory segments that record your heart rate. Not all data are stored for future use, however. New data overwrite the old ones. Loop monitors only store those data that provide important information regarding an episode.
External Loop Monitor
An external cardiac loop recorder (ELR) is a type of ECG monitoring system specifically created to record cardiac activities continuously for a long time. It can be connected to a belt around the chest without additional electrodes.
The initial idea behind ELR is to create a cardiac monitor that would overcome the limitations of implantable loop recorders and Holter monitors.
Smaller than a Holter monitor, ELR is attached to the patient through chest electrodes. The device records data when a patient turns it on. That said, ELR can also have an automatic trigger that detects irregularities in heart rate. A patient may need to wear ELR for 14 to 30 days.
- Avoids surgical implantation of electrodes;
- Provides non-invasive diagnosis;
- Suitable for long-term monitoring.
- Expensive and not available in many lower-income countries;
- Activation of the device by the patient can be difficult;
- Auto-trigger activates ELR as it is programmed, but it may miss the infrequent symptoms and fail to provide complete information.
Implantable Loop Recorders
An implantable loop recorder (ILR) is a heart-monitoring device that monitors heart activity for up to three years. This little device enables a doctor to monitor a patient’s heartbeat remotely.
Healthcare providers may recommend ILR to patients with arrhythmia, syncope (unexplained fainting), and an unexplained stroke.
Since it is implanted and monitors the heart over a long-term period, ILR can detect abnormalities and irregularities that other cardiac monitors usually miss.
A minor surgical procedure is necessary to implant the device into the patient’s chest. During the procedure, a patient is awake but may receive a sedative. Upon making a tiny incision, the doctor inserts the device. The ILR is small, rectangular-shaped, and looks like a USB stick.
Studies show ILR devices have high efficacy in detecting palpitations. Not just that, but patients with ILR have a higher quality of life than those on conventional management of syncope because this device shortens the time of diagnosis.
A growing body of evidence confirms that ILR can shorten the time of diagnosis and targeted treatment without negatively affecting patients’ safety.
In one study, an implantable loop recorder enabled the identification or exclusion of serious disturbances in heart rhythm in more than half of the patients. The device also provided an opportunity for a targeted therapeutic approach.
Higher costs of these devices often make ILRs a second choice for doctors. In many cases, the implantable loop recorder is used only after previous extensive evaluation, and other techniques were ineffective.
- Long-term heart monitoring, longer than any other cardiac event monitor;
- High sensitivity in detecting irregularities;
- Safe to use, with low rates of infection;
- Allows doctors to shorten the time of diagnosis;
- Easier to administer targeted treatment approaches to patients.
- Higher costs;
- Some patients may find the idea of a surgical procedure to implant the device uncomfortable;
- Not suitable for all patients as some patient-specific factors could negatively affect the signal.
Loop Heart Monitor Simplifies Heart Monitoring
Whether external or implanted, loop monitors simplify the process of heart monitoring and diagnosing certain problems. They are more sensitive to picking up abnormalities and irregularities.
Data obtained from these devices help doctors diagnose problems more effectively. Diagnoses are more accurate this way.
For example, if a patient’s syncope is caused by arrhythmia, a loop monitor will detect it immediately, and the doctor will know.
Overall, heart monitors are necessary for diagnosing and monitoring various heart-related problems. As technology evolves, so do these devices. Loop monitors can be external or implantable. They monitor heart activity consistently for 30 days to 3 years, depending on the type of device. Since they are more advanced, these devices provide more detailed data. However, they have some disadvantages, and they usually revolve around the increased costs. In fact, for many doctors, loop monitors are not the first choice of a diagnostic tool precisely due to the higher prices they carry.