An arrhythmia is an abnormal change in a person’s heartbeat. It can affect the rhythm or rate of your heartbeat, and lead to serious complications if left untreated. Since arrhythmias can occur sporadically, we use ambulatory electrocardiography to record electrical activity in real-world conditions.
At Virginia Heart and Vascular Institute, our Arrhythmia monitoring tests include electrocardiographic (ECG) and electrophysiology (EP) testing.
There are three types of ECG testing that we use to assess your heart’s electrical activity:
EP testing uses catheters (thin flexible tubes) to examine the electrical function from the inside of the heart. We will recommend the best option for arrhythmia testing based on each patient. Generally, resting ECG, ECG stress tests, and EP testing are used for patients who have arrhythmias that occur more frequently and ambulatory ECG is used for infrequent arrhythmias.
Prior to your appointment, we will give you pre-test instructions, which include:
During an ECG test, we will place 10-15 electrodes on your chest, arms, and legs. Depending on the type of ECG test being performed, you will either lay down (resting ECG) or be asked to walk on a treadmill for 5-15 minutes (stress ECG).
For our EP test, we will carefully insert catheters into the coronary arteries. We may also stimulate the heart with electricity to observe the impact of an arrhythmia, and also identify where it is coming from.
The ambulatory ECG is used to monitor infrequent arrhythmias. We will give you a portable ECG device that records arrhythmic activity throughout your day. One of the devices we use is a holter monitor. You’ll wear the holter monitor for 1-3 days while performing your normal daily tasks. We’ll ask you to keep a journal of your daily activities with time marks so that we can match arrhythmic activity with specific actions.
You should avoid showers and baths during testing, and also try to minimize your usage of small electrical devices including toothbrushes and razors because they can interfere with the results.
Another portable ECG device we may use is a loop recorder. With loop recorders, electrodes are placed on you to wear for an extended period of time. The electrodes are connected to the loop recorder device, which measures heart activity in a loop. When you experience arrhythmic symptoms, you can save the recording before, during, and after it happens. The stored information is then transferred to us to evaluate.
Most patients are able to go back to their normal activities after an ECG test.
After EP testing, we will remove the catheters and apply pressure at the insertion area. You should lie down for 4-6 hours, and most people are able to go back to normal activities within about 8 hours.
Virginia Heart and Vascular Institute specializes in arrhythmia monitoring for patients in Fairfax, VA and surrounding areas. Contact us at 703-560-1075 to schedule an appointment today.
Understanding your risk of heart disease is a key step toward heart health and minimizing your risk of or preventing heart disease. Risk factors for heart and vascular disease include age, gender, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, stress and not enough exercise. Our physician will perform a complete cardiovascular risk evaluation and physical examination to develop a management plan for you.
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Please read the following Risk Factor Management articles which provides detailed information on ways a patient can lower his or her risk for cardiovascular disease .Click on any of the topics below to read more.