Cardiac telemetry is continuous monitoring of a patient's heart rate and rhythm that takes place at a remote location, classically a nursing station in a special ward. This service is offered to patients recovering from heart events, those who may be at risk of heart events, and individuals experiencing ongoing heart problems. Some hospitals have specialized wards for cardiac telemetry, recognizing how common heart problems are, while others may offer it as part of an array of telemetry services or as part of the standard of care in intensive and critical care units.
In telemetry, data is collected in one location and transmitted to another. In the case of cardiac monitoring, the patient wears electrodes on the chest that are attached to leads and a telemetry transmitter. The transmitter sends signals to a monitoring station, where they can be watched by nurses and cardiologists. Wearing a portable transmitter allows patients to be mobile, as long as the signal stays in range of the monitoring station.
When a patient is admitted to the hospital with heart problems, cardiac telemetry may be recommended as part of the standard of care. Using telemetry, patients can be monitored continuously and unobtrusively by nurses. If a patient develops problems, the monitoring staff can respond quickly, and abnormalities and arrhythmias can also be be noted and brought to the attention of a cardiologist, who can use this information in diagnosis and treatment.
For patients, the process is painless. It can be slightly uncomfortable to wear the electrodes, and patients need to be conscious of the leads, bringing loose connections or leads that have become unplugged to the attention of a nurse. The telemetry can be a valuable diagnostic tool for patients with heart problems, and it can also be important for patient safety, ensuring that heart events are caught quickly. The sooner treatment is offered, the better the prognosis for the patient.
There are a number of options for cardiac telemetry for patients with ongoing conditions. Outpatient telemetry is an option in some hospitals, with patients wearing monitors outside the hospital, and monitoring can also occur as part of a routine standard of care for a variety of conditions, not just heart problems. When telemetry is recommended for a patient, he or she may want to ask how the data will be used, what the implications are, and if he or she will be required to observe any special precautions.