An implantable loop recorder is a medical device that is placed beneath the skin in the chest to record data about heart events over a long period of time - up to two years. This type of monitoring can help diagnose someone who has infrequent symptoms.
How Does It Work?
An implantable loop recorder, like a Holter monitor and event monitor, reads your heart’s electrical activity. Your heart has an electrical system that functions like a natural pacemaker. Electrical signals travel through the chambers of the heart to cause it to beat. If the heart’s natural electrical system is not functioning correctly, an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia) may result.
The implantable loop recorder continuously monitors the electrical activity of the heart and automatically begins recording information when the heart’s patterns change. Alternately, you may be instructed by your physician to turn on the device’s recording function by using an external “activator,” a hand-held device that you hold over the site on your chest where the recorder has been implanted.
How Is It Performed?
An implantable loop recorder is inserted by an electrophysiologist, a physician who specializes in the heart’s electrical system. The procedure is performed in the hospital under local anesthesia. The device, which is about the size of a flattened AA battery, is implanted through an incision in the chest, which is closed with stitches after implantation of the device. You can typically return home and to normal activity the same day.
Your physician will be able to view data from the recorder on a specialized computer. After a diagnosis has been made, or at the end of the device’s battery life, the recorder may be removed in a procedure very similar to the one used for insertion.
Is It Safe?
Receiving an implantable loop recorder is a very safe procedure. Rarely, patients may experience infection at the insertion site. However, an implantable loop recorder, unlike a pacemaker, does not have wires (leads) directly into the heart, so it does not present a risk of infection from that standpoint. Please note that you should not undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test from another physician without first speaking with your electrophysiologist.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Implantable Loop Recorders
The following questions can help you talk to your physician about wearing an implantable loop recorder. Consider printing out or writing down these questions and taking them with you to your appointment. Taking notes can help you remember your physician’s response when you get home.
- What symptoms make me a good candidate for an implantable loop recorder?
- What will the implantable loop recorder tell us about my heart health?
- Will I need to use an activator to turn on my implantable loop recorder?
- Do I need to have an empty stomach before the procedure to insert the recorder? Should I withhold any of my medications? Are there any medications that I will need to take?
- Will I have limitations after the procedure to insert the recorder? Will I need to have someone who can drive me home?
- When will the implantable loop recorder likely be removed?
- What happens next if the data from the implantable loop recorder shows abnormal heart rhythms?
Please print this list of questions here. Take them with you to the doctor and share them with friends and loved ones when you are encouraging them to see their doctors.