Understanding Loop Recorder Implantation

An implantable loop recorder (ILR) is a device that records information about how your heart is working. A loop recorder may be implanted if you have problems such as:

  • Fainting, dizziness, or lightheadedness

  • Heart palpitations

  • Very fast or slow heartbeats

  • Unexplained falls

  • Possible hidden heart rhythm problems that can cause strokes

  • Heart attack in the past

  • Certain gene disorders

During implantation, a small device is placed under the skin on your chest, a few inches below your collarbone. The device works as an electrocardiogram (ECG). It constantly picks up electrical signals from your heart. An ILR records for up to 3 years.

How a loop recorder helps

You may need an ILR if other tests haven’t found the cause of your symptoms. An ILR constantly records your heart’s electrical activity. For example, if you faint because of an arrhythmia, the device records your heart’s activity before, during, and after you faint. Then your health care provider can see how your heart was acting.

Or you may need to trigger your ILR with an activator. This is a small, handheld device. You press a button on the activator when you are feeling symptoms. The IRL then records your heart’s activity. This device is very useful when you don't have symptoms often or if your provider needs to look at long-term information about your heart.

Once the cause of your symptoms is found, you can be treated. You may need another small device to help control your heart rhythm. This may be a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).

How loop recorder implantation is done

The doctor will make a small cut (incision) in your skin. This is usually done in the left upper chest, a few inches below your collarbone. He or she will make a small pocket under your skin. The doctor will place the loop recorder in this pocket. The machine is about the size of a flat AA battery.

Your provider can remove the device in a similar way once enough information has been recorded.

Risks of loop recorder implantation

All procedures have some risks. The risks of this procedure include:

  • Bleeding or bruising

  • Infection that may require that the ILR be removed

  • Damage to your heart or blood vessels

  • Mild pain at your implantation site

Your own risks will depend on your age, your other overall health, and other factors. Ask your healthcare provider about which risks most apply to you.