Cardiac diagnostic monitoring has transcended what was thought impossible even just a decade ago. These sophisticated devices allow your physician to get valuable data about your heart’s performance, making it easier to identify conditions that often don’t even have noticeable symptoms. The most common heart conditions detected by cardiac diagnostic monitoring are unexplained syncope (losing consciousness) and cardiac arrhythmia (deviations to your heart’s regular cadence).
But these technological features aren’t common to all diagnostic monitoring systems. First off, there’s a big difference between monitors that go under the skin as opposed to monitors that are worn externally. An insertable cardiac monitor is a tiny device that’s placed directly under your skin, close to the heart. Although it involves a surgical procedure, it only takes about 10 minutes and you can resume your normal life in no time.
An external cardiac monitor, as the name implies, stays on the outside of your body and there’s no need for a medical procedure. With this version of monitor, you stick recording pads on your skin and they stay there anywhere from 1-30 days. Some patients find the wearing of an external monitor 24/7 cumbersome – particularly if their physician has prescribed monitoring for more than just a few days.
While an insertable cardiac monitor (ICM) is often considered more convenient than external models, there’s still a wide range of comfort to consider. The best ICMs are ultra-flexible, allowing them to conform naturally to your body. They’re small enough that any discomfort is minimized and they’re not visible once placed under the skin.
Depending on your care plan, you may need to have your ICM in place for an extended period of time. Therefore, you should know that battery life varies quite a bit between models and brands. If you need longer term monitoring, talk to your doctor to learn about devices with extended longevity.
The entire point of a cardiac monitor is to provide your physician with crucial data. Some monitors only transmit periodically or only when there is an alert. Others must be manually scanned in your physician’s’ office. The best ICMs transmit continuously and without any involvement by the patient – simple and automatic.
Your cardiac device is designed for minimal impact on your daily life. For example, after your ICM procedure, you can start bathing or swimming within a few days.
Even more importantly, the best ICMs make it easier to get a full range of medical care. Some devices make it impossible to undergo an MRI scan, which is problematic, because an MRI can be a potentially lifesaving test. Some new monitors, however, are designed to be fully compatible with the MRI environment.