Professor Martin R Cowie
Consultant Cardiologist, Royal Brompton Hospital, London and King’s College London
Technology has come a long way over the past few years and is helping provide more accurate monitoring for patients than ever before.
In the past, if your heart started racing it was likely by the time you had arrived at your GP’s surgery or the emergency room your palpitation would have settled. The tracing of your heart rhythm (ECG) would most likely be normal and the whole experience would have been disappointing for all concerned.
Twenty years or so ago, Holter monitors became available, where several pads could be stuck on your chest with wires connected to a recording box. This could record for a day or two but did feel rather “clunky” and would stop you from bathing as normal. Unfortunately, often the recording period was quiet with no palpitation and no diagnosis.
Advancements in monitoring technology
The need for a better approach was clear to all. Thankfully technology has now provided a range of smarter solutions. Electronic watches can identify an irregular pulse and even record a simple ECG that can be sent to your doctor by email.
The NHS has recently approved further assessment of a high-tech patch that can be used for up to a week to record all your heart beats. Your smart phone can also help. There is an app that uses its camera and torch to identify whether you might have atrial fibrillation.
The need for a better approach was clear to all. Thankfully technology has now provided a range of smarter solutions.
Research has shown that these new technologies can make a meaningful difference to finding out the reasons for palpitation and can help pick up heart rhythm problems that might have remained undiagnosed.
If something abnormal is found your doctor will want to do further tests to ensure that the diagnosis is correct and to help determine whether you need to have treatment.
Doctors have been worried that there was a risk that the “worried well” would use these new approaches to bombard them with unimportant information, such as flagging up the occasional extra beats that we all have from time-to-time. But so far, most people seem to be sensible about their use.