A loop recorder is an implantable EKG monitoring device. It does not detect heart attacks or strokes but can help doctors diagnose certain heart conditions to determine suitable treatments.
A loop recorder records the heart’s electrical activity over an extended period and can record for up to
This article looks at what a loop recorder is, why doctors use it, and what to expect during and after the procedure. We also look at what a loop recorder’s results might mean.
A loop recorder, also known as an insertable cardiac monitor, is a small device that a doctor implants under the skin to record electrical activity in the heart. Doctors use this information to diagnose heart rhythm disorders.
A loop recorder constantly monitors heart rhythm and can record EKG “snapshots” in case of bradycardia, a slow heart rate, or tachycardia, a fast heart rate.
A loop recorder is a miniature device, and the latest models are small enough for doctors to inject them.
Doctors use loop recorders to see how a person’s symptoms correlate with EKG findings, which can help them make an accurate diagnosis and choose the most effective treatment.
Doctors typically use a loop recorder to evaluate recurring palpitations in people, and episodes of syncope, or fainting, of unknown causes. Doctors may also use a loop recorder to assess bradycardia before implanting a permanent pacemaker.
However, manufacturers do not design loop recorders to detect specific heart problems, such as:
However, they can help a doctor make a diagnosis according to the heart’s rhythm, which may help them detect such conditions or refine their treatment of existing conditions.
A loop recorder may also
- evaluate a patient’s outlook following an acute coronary event, such as a heart attack, due to a sudden reduction of blood to the heart
- identify episodes of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can cause poor blood flow, after a stroke
- screen a person with cardiac syndromes for ventricular premature beats — extra heartbeats due to atypical electrical activity in the lower chambers of the heart — and tachycardia
- assess a person’s average heart rate and adequacy of rate control during atrial fibrillation
The procedure is as follows:
- A doctor will administer local anesthesia to numb a person’s skin at the insertion site.
- They will make a small incision near the second or third rib on the left side.
- They will create a small pocket under the skin and insert the loop recorder.
- The doctor will then close the incision with stitches.
- Finally, they will pass a magnet over the device to activate it.
The device will create a slight lump, which the doctor will cover with a bandage. The procedure takes about 10–15 minutes.
A person could leave the hospital on the day of the procedure and may require some pain medication.
However, they may experience complications,
- infection in the pocket that holds the loop recorder
- pain at the site of the implant
- skin reaction to the device
- rarely, the loop recorder may incorrectly sense an electrical impulse called an R wave, and a doctor may have to move the device
A loop recorder sends recordings to a person’s medical professional, sometimes through a small transmitter within the individual’s home. Depending on the device, the results may send automatically to a doctor. Alternatively, the person will need to attend the hospital so that doctors can download the results from the recorder.
Once the medical team has the results, they will create a report. A loop recorder report includes information about:
- the EKG tracings
- the technician’s interpretation of the EKG
- symptoms that the person reported during the monitoring phase
According to the report, a doctor can diagnose and make treatment recommendations.
If the report shows EKG abnormalities that correlate with a person’s symptoms, a doctor can diagnose and make treatment recommendations. These treatments may include the following:
- implantation of a pacemaker
- implantation of a cardiac defibrillator
- diagnostic electric study of the heart
- therapeutic procedure
- medication, such as blood-thinning medication
If a person had symptoms but did not have corresponding EKG abnormalities, the doctor will investigate other possible causes, as they may not relate to the heart. A doctor may also refer a person to a different specialist.
If someone has no EKG abnormalities or symptoms, the doctor can remove the device and stop monitoring the heart.
A loop recorder is a small implantable device that records electrical impulses in the heart. Doctors can use the EKG results and a person’s other symptoms to diagnose certain heart conditions and advise treatment approaches.
Implanting a loop recorder is an outpatient procedure, which is minimally invasive and typically requires a local anesthetic.
According to the results of the loop recorder and the person’s symptoms, doctors may prescribe medications, recommend implanting a permanent pacemaker or cardiac defibrillator, suggest further testing, or perform a therapeutic procedure.