Harvard Heart Letter

The future of heart rhythm monitoring?

Small, wireless skin patches may offer a convenient way to diagnose—or rule out—arrhythmias.

An abnormal heart rhythm—when your heartbeat is too slow, too fast, or irregular—may be a fleeting, harmless event. But it might be a sign of a more serious heart condition. If you have frequent palpitations (which feel like your heart is pounding, racing, or fluttering) or unexplained fainting spells, your doctor may recommend a Holter monitor. This portable electrocardiogram (ECG) machine records your heart rhythm over a day or two.

The Holter monitor, though, is a big, bulky device with a lot of wires. You can't shower or take a bath while wearing it. It may limit your ability to exercise, which can be an important trigger for abnormal rhythms. And you may not have symptoms during the two-day period.

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