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May 1990

The Duration of Holter Monitoring in Patients With Syncope: Is 24 Hours Enough?

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Internal Medicine, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Md (Dr Bass); and the Divisions of General Internal Medicine (Drs Arena, Hanusa, Karpf, and Kapoor) and Cardiology (Dr Curtiss and Mr Cecchetti), Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh (Pa).

Arch Intern Med. 1990;150(5):1073-1078. doi:10.1001/archinte.1990.00390170103022

• To determine the incremental yield of ambulatory monitoring in the evaluation of syncope, three serial 24-hour Holter recordings were obtained in a consecutive series of 95 patients with syncope, the cause of which was not explained by history, physical examination, or 12-lead electrocardiogram. The mean age of patients was 61 years and 41% were men. Major electrocardiographic abnormalities were found in 26 patients (27%), including unsustained ventricular tachycardia (19 patients), pauses of at least 2 seconds (8 patients), profound bradycardia (1 patient), and complete heart block (1 patient). The first 24-hour Holter recording had at least one major abnormality in 14 patients (15%) (95% confidence interval, 8.3% to 23.4%). Of the 81 patients without a major abnormality on the first Holter recording, the second Holter recording had major abnormalities in 9 (11%) (95% confidence interval, 5.1% to 20.0%). Of the 72 patients without a major abnormality on the first two Holter recordings, only 3 patients (4.2%) had a major abnormality on the third Holter recording (95% confidence interval, 0.8% to 11.7%). Four factors were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of a major abnormality on 72 hours of monitoring: age above 65 years (relative risk, 2.2), male gender (relative risk, 2.0), history of heart disease (relative risk, 2.2), and an initial nonsinus rhythm (relative risk, 3.5). These results suggest that 24 hours of Holter monitoring is not enough to identify all potentially important arrhythmias in patients with syncope. Monitoring may need to be extended to 48 hours if the first 24-hour Holter recording is normal.

(Arch Intern Med. 1990;150:1073-1078)

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