This article will provide you with an easy-to-understand explanation of what mobile cardiac telemetry (MCT) is.
I will explain how MCT relates to heart disease, who may benefit from it, and answer questions that cardiac telemetry patients should know. I hope you find the following information educational and informative. And if you know of someone who may benefit from reading it, I encourage you to pass it along.
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Table of Contents
What is Mobile Cardiac Telemetry?
First, let’s explain telemetry. Telemetry is a way of monitoring your heart rhythms.
If you have ever been admitted to the hospital and were hooked up to a telemetry monitor, you might feel like you have wires all over your body. In reality, sticky pads (electrodes) with wires are placed in specific areas around your chest and torso area. The electrodes with wires are then connected to a small monitor.
Mobile cardiac telemetry is a type of telemetry that is done outside of a hospital setting. It is used as a diagnostic test. MCT can monitor heart rhythms as you run errands, exercise, and sleep.
Telemetry is used to watch your pattern of heartbeats and find any heart problems you may have. It also allows doctors to see how well your medications are working to manage your heart condition.
With mobile cardiac telemetry, you are responsible for attaching the electrodes to your body. Likewise, you are responsible for using and caring for your monitor while it is in your possession.
Don’t worry about reading the heart rhythms that your monitor is producing. That is the job of a trained, cardiac technician that is monitoring your rhythms 24 hours a day.
Each electrode is about the size of a silver dollar. The monitor is about the size of a deck of cards.
Another great bonus with mobile cardiac telemetry is that the devices are noninvasive and painless.
Other Types of Cardiac Monitoring
There are other types of outpatient heart monitors that your doctor may also suggest depending on your condition. These other options for mobile telemetry include:
- Holter monitors
- Event monitors
Holter monitors are devices that record ALL heart activity. Similar to mobile cardiac telemetry, Holter monitors also involve sticky pads and electrodes that attach to specific areas of your body.
Sometimes it is difficult to diagnose symptoms if they only occur once in a while or under certain conditions. So you may need to wear a Holter monitor for 24 to 48 hours. This longer period of monitoring your heartbeat is more likely to capture any symptoms than an electrocardiogram (ECG) which only runs for a few minutes and is usually performed at a doctor’s office.
Some Holter monitors may record continuously but also have an event monitor feature that you activate when symptoms begin to occur.
The purpose of an event monitor is to monitor your heart rhythm during the times your symptoms occur. You, the user, activate the recording by pushing a button on your device as soon as symptoms begin.
Unlike a Holter monitor, which records continuously throughout the time you wear it, event monitors only record cardiac events. This could include any abnormal symptoms, including chest pain, dizziness, or palpitations.
Some event monitors have wires. Others are wireless and can connect to your smartphone.
With both Holter and event monitors, you will likely keep a diary of your symptoms and corresponding activities. This will provide your doctor with more information about what may have caused the cardiac event.
Want more info on diagnostic cardiac testing? Check out Can You Eat Before a Stress Test?
Who Needs Mobile Cardiac Telemetry?
The list below includes any conditions an individual may have that may indicate the need for Mobile Cardiac Telemetry:
- Palpitations or undiscovered arrhythmias
- Symptoms that may indicate cardiac abnormalities or arrhythmias: transient chest pain (angina), shortness of breath (dyspnea) signs of dizziness (syncope)
- Bradycardia arrhythmias
- Bundle branch block or other transient non-life threatening conduction disorders
- Post-cardiac surgery and/or myocardial infarction
- Prescription drug monitoring to control atrial fibrillation
- Those recovering from cardiac surgery who need outpatient arrhythmia monitoring
- Patients with sleep disorders (obstructive sleep apnea) to evaluate arrhythmia behavior
- Individuals requiring arrhythmia evaluation due to stroke or transient cerebral ischemia and/or stroke from atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter.
- Patients who require 24-hour monitoring for non-life threatening arrhythmias such as supraventricular tachycardia (pre-mature atrial contractions, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, premature ventricular contractions, ventricular tachycardia)
Mobile Cardiac Telemetry should NOT be used if you have life-threatening arrhythmias. In this situation, you should use in-patient monitoring in a hospital setting.
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How Does Mobile Cardiac Telemetry Work?
Once you receive the device and set it up, it is attached to your chest. You should shower or bathe the day you receive your device to ensure the area is clean.
Alternatively, you may use alcohol wipes to clean the skin where the monitor will be placed. You may also want to shave or remove any hair you might have in that area, ensuring that the electrode can stay attached and get a clear signal.
After attaching the cardiac telemetry electrodes, your device begins recording your heartbeat.
Similar to Holter monitors, MCT devices are constantly transmitting data in real time to a remote center where your heart rhythms are being monitored and recorded.
Each time you have an abnormal cardiac rhythm, a cardiac technician may contact you or your physician if needed.
The trained and certified cardiac technicians reviewing your heart data, watch for unusual activity 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week. You can wear your monitor for up to 30 days.
Once your MCT period ends, they will send a clinical report to your doctor and you will be asked to return your telemetry device.
Benefits of Use
MCT monitoring is superior to other forms of Ambulatory Cardiac Monitoring (Holter or Event Monitoring) because it transmits data to doctors automatically. You don’t need to do anything.
This is a benefit because it takes this step out of your hands, eliminating the hurdle of having to document or relay information to the doctor yourself.
Likewise, medical professionals can interact with you in real-time, optimizing patient care almost instantly. Relaying health information in real-time is better than getting it days or weeks later.
Several studies compare Mobile Cardiac Telemetry (MCT) to traditional 30-Day Cardiac Event Monitors. The results prove that MCT is arguably superior in detecting significant cardiac arrhythmias. It is also successful in confirming diagnoses of conditions, whether the patient felt symptoms or not.
The future of this technology is bright, as it progresses to expedite and improve the quality of clinical diagnosis.
Setting Up Your Mobile Telemetry Device
Since these are medical devices, they do take some initial technical setup. The device usually comes with a sensor and a monitor.
Some people may need help setting it up or attaching it to the correct area of the body. Each device should come with special instructions for set-up and use. You must read these instructions thoroughly and carefully so you can avoid any user errors.
Precautions and Warnings
You must also remember that these devices are water-resistant, not waterproof. Therefore, showering may be difficult. Try to face away from the direction of the showerhead so that you avoid spraying water directly onto the telemetry device.
Another precautionary measure is to avoid electromagnetic interference. For example, you must avoid being too close to heavy equipment (large motors, transmitters, metal detectors, construction equipment), electric blankets, heating pads, water beds, etc.
It is also best to sleep on your back or side while wearing your mobile cardiac telemetry device. This is because lying or sleeping directly on the sensor may damage the device.
The use of Mobile Cardiac Telemetry is very promising. It is a wonderful way to diagnose abnormal heart rhythms that a one-time electrocardiogram (EKG) in a doctor’s office may not be able to.
The benefits of mobile cardiac telemetry are that it is painless and doesn’t involve any surgical interventions. It is also convenient in that the user does not have to record anything or contact their doctor. This is the job of trained medical personnel who do this for you. In addition, they can document events even if users don’t realize they are happening.
Tell your doctor if you have any of the conditions indicating a need for cardiac telemetry to prevent serious heart issues. This type of monitoring should not be used if you have severe, life-threatening arrhythmias.
Finally, be aware of any precautions and ask any questions you may have before starting.
For more information on how to prevent cardiac disease, stroke, and heart attack, read ”5 Things You Can Do to Support Heart Health NOW!”
Kiran Campbell is a registered dietitian and entrepreneur with 14 years of experience. She also has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and is a proud member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Cardiovascular Health and Well-being Dietetics Practice Group. Kiran proudly presents and promotes the most up-to-date, science-based nutrition information on all things heart-related. She aims to serve not only individuals with heart disease, but also those wanting to protect against it. Learn more about Kiran by visiting her About Page.