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Heart Disease - Monitoring Patients with Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiac monitoring of patients takes place at each step of patient management, from disease detection to diagnosis to cathlab procedures or open-heart surgery to recovery. Electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG) record electrical activity as graphs or series of wave lines and are suitable for both rest and exercise (stress test) examinations. Sophisticated systems typically consist of a screening to monitor the patient’s cardiac functioning and a printer for obtaining hard copy results. EKG systems may contain databases to archive patient results.

During routine screening, cardiac monitoring helps detect disease and/or damage. If an abnormality is detected, non-invasive diagnostic techniques should be performed to further evaluate the problems. These techniques include stress test, chest x-ray, computed tomography (CT), nuclear scanning, echocardiogram (heart ultrasound), or magnetic resonance (MR). Monitoring should also take place when a patient experiences symptoms such as angina (chest pain), dyspnea (shortness of breath), abnormal heart rhythms, or fainting spells.

Cardiac monitoring provides valuable information for diagnostic decisions. Many EKG monitors may be connected to a cathlab database and endure safe and flexible patient transport between the cardiac care unit and the examination room. During catheter procedures or surgery (both emergency and planned) and afterwards in intensive care, cardiac monitoring is essential in checking vital functions at short intervals so physicians can react quickly and efficiently to changes in the patient’s condition.

After treatment, it may be necessary for patients to use a Holter monitor, a portable EKG that continuously monitors the heart’s electrical activity. A wide range of modalities may also be used to monitor patients with heart disease/damage during and after treatment, including:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • Stress test
  • Chest x-ray
  • Fast/multislice CT
  • Nuclear scanning
  • Echocardiogram (ultrasound)

Upon discharge from the hospital or cardiac center, drug therapies and diet/lifestyles modifications should be considered to help promote recovery and prevent further cardiac damage.

Updated: February 2011