Key differences between Holter Monitors and Telemetry Monitoring

Posted on March 1, 2023

Are cardiac monitoring and telemetry the same thing? Not quite. It’s often the case that people refer to holter monitoring services as a mobile cardiac telemetry service or the other way around. And while both essential work to serve a similar function, these two technologies aren’t completely synonymous. If you’ve for too long thought otherwise, our article today is for you. We’ll break down all you need to know about either technology and, crucially, lay apart the most contrasting attributes between both. Let’s get to it.

What are holter monitors and telemetry devices?

Physicians carry out an ECG test to get to the bottom of heart problems. When these tests provide insufficient data or the examination is inconclusive, the physician may opt for telemetry or holter monitoring depending on certain conditions as we’ll discuss momentarily.

But before we talk about the differences, let’s first point out some similarities that often blur the line between both technologies:

    1. Both are used to monitor cardiac activity over a defined period of time
    2. They entail wearable, portable, or remote heart rhythm monitoring devices
    3. Both technologies can help find various categorizations of arrhythmias
    4. Holter monitors and telemetry devices are ideal when ECGs/EKGs come up short

Now that we have a sufficient understanding of either divide, let’s now move on to the heart of our post today.

Discerning between holter monitoring and telemetry

While a lot of attributes, functionality, and objectives unite these two technologies, several factors set them apart. Some of those that we shall discuss in detail today include, means of data storage, period of use, methodology of recording, and feature variations across devices:

Duration of monitoring

For the most part, physicians often prescribe holter monitoring for short-term needs, usually ranging from 1 to 2 days. However, there are cases where a wearable ECG Holter service may provide service to the patient for up to 14 days.

Consequently, holter monitors are usually ideal for patients who:

    1. Having clearly manifested symptoms such as syncope
    2. Experience these symptoms regularly
    3. Have a condition that doesn’t warrant round-the-clock monitoring.

On the other hand, mobile cardiac telemetry service is usually pursued as a longer-term monitoring solution, typically spanning the entirety of a month.

Physicians can use this technology to get to the bottom of more asymptomatic cases, where patients rarely exhibit any symptoms although they could have a suspected arrhythmia. Alternatively, if the patient exhibits intermittent episodes, then a short-term solution may not be ideal, hence where telemetry monitoring comes in.
Cardiac activity can occur in inconsistent and silent patterns. Telemetry services usually come out on top in terms of picking out such types of heart issues.

Methodology of data collection

Essentially, both technologies monitor cardiac data in a way that enables the reproduction of that data onto an ECG strip to provide a visual representation of the subject’s heart activity.

However, there are significant differences in the exact mechanisms at play here. For holter monitoring, data recording can occur continuously without letting up. But that’s not necessarily the case with mobile cardiac telemetry (MCT) devices.

To ensure extended use based on limited device battery, MCT technologies can record heart activity intermittently upon the breach of certain thresholds. However, it is also possible for some MCT devices to afford hybrid data recording mechanisms, inclusive of both continuous monitoring and other data collection methodologies.

Overall though, both can essentially extract heart data from the patient, with MCTs, in particular, having the ability to transmit this data remotely to a healthcare provider by way of wireless technology.

Device design

Telemetry devices and holter monitors also differ as well in terms of size. Conventionally, the traditional holter monitor design tends to contain more leads or wires. This makes them a lot bulkier than a cardiac telemetry monitoring service device for example.

This size difference comes about due to wiring variations. A telemetry device has fewer leads to work with, hence it tends to make for smaller technology compared to holter monitors. What’s more, some newer models can even attach directly to the chest without the need for any wires.

So is a holter monitor big? While it is true that telemetry devices tend to be smaller due to fewer leads, holter monitors are not necessarily big devices. They remain a wearable and portable solution for patients as well, although the bottom line is that mobile cardiac telemetry devices tend to be more concise in design.

This lightweight build is quite strategic as a mobile cardiac telemetry service device is usually intended to provide monitoring for much longer periods. Hence the need to ensure minimal intrusion and maximum comfort for the wearer.

To sum up these design differences, remember, holter monitors:

    1. Have more wires/leads
    2. Are bigger in build
    3. Are heavier to the touch
    4. Are not completely wireless like some MCT devices

Data storage

What is the difference between holter and telemetry technology? The strategy of data storage is also another massive distinguishing trait. For holter monitors, data is usually collected and stored locally on the same device. That means, for some models, your cardiologist will only get the chance to review the data when the wearing duration expires and they have physical access to the holter monitor.

It’s a different ball game with mobile cardiac telemetry devices. These typically have capabilities to store data locally and off-device as well, usually on a cloud solution. As a result, this also results in the following differences:

    1. MCTs allow real-time data reading while holter monitors do not
    2. The data on the holter monitor can only be read only after device retrieval
    3. MCTs enable the detection and management of irregularities as they occur

However, we should also point out that the ability of a mobile cardiac telemetry service device to transmit data is also dependent on signal quality. Physicians may still have trouble fetching data from an MCT device in areas with poor cellular signal reception, hence may be forced to rely on local data retrieval.

Similar but not the same

A mobile cardiac telemetry service and a wearable ECG service both work similarly in terms of basic principles, but they are not the same. Holter monitors have bigger and bulkier designs while MCTs tend to be more lightweight. Additionally, MCTs allow for real-time cardiac data reporting and are recommended for longer-term use in comparison. To learn more about other technologies making a difference in cardiac care today, spare a moment to check out the rest of our blog.

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