24-hour ECG recording

This technique involves continuously recording an electrocardiogram (ECG) over 24 hours. It is usually done as an outpatient and is safe and painless. It can help to diagnose symptoms such as palpitations,which don’t happen very often. You will need to make two visits to the hospital – once to have the recorder fitted and once to return it. Small sticky patches are put on your chest with wires are attached to these and are taped down. The wires lead to a small portable tape recorder which you wear on a belt round your waist. The whole system is very comfortable and quiet so you should hardly be aware of it. You can do everything you normally do, except have a bath or shower, and it is best to wear loose clothing. The doctor will ask you to spend a normal day and do any activity which might bring on your symptoms. You will also need to keep a simple ‘diary’,writing down what activities you do and when, and making a note of any times when you have symptoms such as palpitations or dizzy spells. When the ECG is analysed later, the doctors will pay special attention to the recordings at these times which is why it is important to fill in your diary accurately. Often the doctor will arrange for 24-hour recordings to be made for two or three days in a row (in some cases up to eight days). You will get the results of the monitoring a few days later.

A 24-hour ECG recording may show a fast or slow heart rhythm that may need treatment. It can also reassure you if you think you have palpitations but are in fact just ‘over-aware’ of your normal heartbeat.

Related services

Working on it!