About this time last year I was four months removed from my ablation and was one month past my 3-month blanking period. My father had died a few weeks prior and I was having rampant and annoying PVCs and PACs. Dr. Natale’s office sent me a heart rate monitor just to be sure it wasn’t afib rearing its ugly head again (which I knew wasn’t the case) and also to be sure it was just benign PVCs and PACs. It turned out to be exactly that – benign PVCs and PACs.
Well here I am a year later and I’m having periodic bouts of PVCs and PACs again. I’ve been having them on an off since this time last year. I go from having days where I have nothing but solid NSR to days where my PVCs and PACs are so bad I feel like I’m in afib! Fortunately, things have settled down in the past few weeks so I’ve had more solid NSR days than bad PVC/PAC days.
Three weeks ago the PVCs and PACs were so bad that I broke down and called Dr. Natale’s office for help. They recommended we do another round of heart monitoring just to be sure everything is o.k. I was relieved that a heart monitor was going to be sent but wouldn’t you know it, the next day my PVCs and PACs stopped. Simply making that phone call and knowing that a heart monitor was on the way was enough placebo effect to calm my heart.
I was tempted to call and cancel the heart monitor but I figured with my luck I’d do that and as soon as I got off the phone to cancel, my PVCs and PACs would kick in big time so I abandoned that thought.
The Heart Monitor Arrives
This time around the heart monitor I was given is much different than the one I had last year. Instead of the typical 3-lead monitor where you have a bunch of wires and a smart phone-size monitor that you put in your pocket, this year’s monitor is just a small device with 2 leads. It literally hangs from the 2 leads. You don’t put it in your pocket. This year’s monitor is from a company called CardioKey.
This is what the monitor looked like on me last year:
Click on the images for bigger images.
This is what the monitor looks like this year:
I like this device much better than last year but it has one design flaw. While the device is really light it just hangs there by the two wires so as you move around you feel this thing bouncing around behind your shirt. Sleeping with it is a pain in the butt too because you can feel it “tugging” on the wires as it hangs there. This was an easy fix. I tape it down with medical tape like this:
Now I don’t even know it’s there. I exercise with it and go about all my daily activities like normal. At night I also wear a tight-fitting muscle t-shirt which helps to keep it even more secure against my body as I’m moving around in my sleep.
14 Days of Heart Monitoring
I officially started the monitoring at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 12th. This is only a 14-day monitoring period so I’ll officially be done at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 26th. At that time I’ll send the monitor back and we’ll see what they tell me. I’m sure like last year they’ll tell me it’s benign PVCs and PACs. At least I’m hoping that’s what they tell me. As always, I will keep you posted!
The Placebo Effect
During this round of heart monitoring, a few things have come to mind that I want to share. The first thought that came to mind was the placebo effect and the amazing power of the mind. As I mentioned, literally the day after I talked to my doctor and was told a heart monitor would be sent to me, my PVCs and PACs disappeared. In the past few weeks I have only had a few days where they were “bad.” And even when they were bad they weren’t nearly as severe as they were prior to ordering the monitor.
I don’t know if you’re keeping track of the timeline here but I keep referencing the past “few weeks.” The monitor arrived about three weeks ago but because my heart has been so calm and “normal,” I was reluctant to use it. I can’t tell you how many times I was tempted to return it.
I have pretty good health insurance but it’s a high deductible plan that resets every year. Our policy just reset in the spring so every healthcare expense right now is out-of-pocket. Last year my 14-day monitor cost over $1,000! I’m sure it will be the same this year. I didn’t want to needlessly incur a $1,000 expense if my heart was nothing but NSR so the monitor sat on my desk for a couple weeks.
I finally broke down and decided to use it but in this first week I have only had one or two episodes where I felt any PVCs and PACs. And both times they were only “bad” for a few hours. What I mean by bad is that I could feel them constantly. They weren’t debilitating. They were just annoying.
Getting back to the placebo effect, the mere presence of having this heart monitor has helped calm things down. It will be interesting to see what happens once the monitoring period is over and I return the monitor. If the PVCs and PACs come roaring back then I’ll know my issue is more of a mental issue than a physical issue. If that ends up being the case, knowing that alone will help me address these PVCs and PACs as I can work on different ways to channel my thoughts.
The Technological Advancements in Heart Monitoring
The other thought that came to mind is I’m amazed at the advancements that have been made with these heart monitors. I remember when I had my first heart monitor back in 2006, shortly after my first official atrial fibrillation episode. It was a bulky, heavy device and I had to call the monitoring company every night from a land line to transmit the day’s results. You couldn’t use your cell phone. It was a pain to wear and a pain to have to call every night to send in the results.
Today these devices are so small that you don’t even know you’re wearing them. And the results are either automatically sent wirelessly or they are stored on the device directly for the entire monitoring period. That’s how the Cardiokey monitor I’m using now works. Once I return it they’ll be able to plug it into a computer and download the results as it’s just a fancy USB device.
While I’m impressed and happy how things have progressed over the years, I believe more can (and should) be done. They have heart monitors now that are so small and light that you stick them on your chest like a patch. Here is the ZIO XT Patch as an example:
Why can’t a device like this be the standard? Why do hospitals and doctors even bother with the “old technology” where you have any wires? The device I have now is great but there are still two annoying wires to deal with and is a “clunky” device compared to a patch device. Why can’t every patient that needs periodic monitoring have a patch device? I suppose it all comes down to money and expense. Regardless, I look forward to the day when all heart monitoring devices are simple patches or some other wearable device.
But the even bigger issue is why do I need to go to my doctor to have my own heart monitored? This one baffles me. I can already take EKG readings on my own with my AliveCor monitor. Why can’t someone invent a device that allows for continuous, around-the-clock monitoring for use at home? AliveCor is the closest thing we have right now but it’s a far cry from what would be ideal.
Or why can’t the companies that already have continuous, around-the-clock monitoring – like the ZIO XT patch – offer their devices directly to the public? Monitoring your heart is no different than monitoring your blood pressure. I shouldn’t need a “prescription” from a doctor to have one of these fancy heart monitoring devices sent to me. I should be able to go directly to these companies and order one myself just like I can to monitor my blood pressure.
I’m not asking, nor am I expecting, these companies to analyze the results or be responsible for them. I only need them to provide the device and the results. I can then interpret the results myself, do nothing with them, or have my doctor look at them. Again, it’s no different than getting the results from a blood pressure device. I can look at them and say, “Gee, this is bad. I better have a doctor take a look at this,” or, “Gee, looks like things are o.k. I’m good to go for now.”
This would be far more convenient for the patient and would be far cheaper too. I’ll probably end up paying well over $1,000 for 14 days of monitoring – only to be told everything is fine. That’s ridiculous! It shouldn’t cost more than $250 (give or take), to order a device directly from a company and have my heart monitored for a couple weeks. And I should be able to do this anytime I want. It’s my heart. It’s my health. I should be able to have direct access to basic heart monitoring and it shouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg either! The doctor only needs to be involved if I need him/her to interpret the results and provide recommendations.
I’m confident this will be a reality in my lifetime. I just hope it’s sooner than later. Another benefit of having direct, affordable access to continuous heart monitoring is that it might help calm the hearts of patients from the placebo affect alone and would give many patients peace of mind whenever they needed it!
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Thank u travis for raising hopes here. Great post with solutions.
Glad your episodes have been less. The mind is an amazing thing. I am scheduled for my ablation tomorrow and am really afraid! Blood pressure is up a bit and flutters. All of mine is related to my thoughts and stress of taking care of my husband with brain cancer. My heart is healthy and I have no other issues.
I am happy to hear your AFib was “cured” by the ablation.
Thanks for your kind words! Don’t be afraid. Your ablation will be great! Please keep in touch afterwards. I’d love to hear how it goes.
I wish you the best.
P.S. Sorry to hear about your husband’s brain cancer. I will pray for him and you!
My ablation is over and I came home Thursday. The ablation itself went well. I had a reaction to a medication but that has passed.
I am surprised how fatigued I am and had an ocular migraine today with elevated blood pressure. My Dr didn’t think it’s related to the procedure. I’m thinking since I’m so sensitive to medication that this is all lingering effects of general anesthesia.
No AFib at all. Just a few palpitations.
Anyone else feel knocked out after having this done? Body aches etc.
they do say to take it easy for a week.
They put me on Xeralto. Maybe it’s that.
Hey Cindy! Thanks for the update. Congrats on your successful ablation so far and I hope you have a quick recovery.
As to feeling “knocked out,” I didn’t feel that way personally but I’ve heard from others who have felt that way after an ablation. While the procedure itself is fairly benign these days, it’s still a pretty dramatic procedure to the body. After all, your heart is being punctured and burned and you’re under anesthesia, blood thinners, and lying still for several hours. You’re bound to feel out of sorts for a few days so hang in there! I promise you it will get better!
The best thing you can do now is rest and relax. You’ll start feeling normal again in 7-10 days. That’s actually when things can get dicey because you’ll start feeling totally normal and will be tempted to be “active.” I know doctors say it’s fine to go back to your normal routine after a couple weeks but I advise being extra cautious and just take it easy throughout the entire 3-month blanking period. That doesn’t mean you should just sit around but don’t go crazy and start running, lifting weights, or anything super strenuous. Moderation is the key during the blanking period! Give the heart plenty of time to heal.
Keep us posted on your progress and congratulations again. I wish you many years of NSR!
Thanks Travis. Unfortunately I’ve been in AFib since this morning. Really bad. They put me on Meteoprolol and said I will have to be cardioverted on Thursday if it doesn’t stop. I am also on a 30 day monitor again.
I know it’s not uncommon but I feel miserable and it’s so upsetting. I’ll let you know what happens.
Hope your feeling well.
I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such a difficult time. The “good” news here is that it’s not uncommon to experience episodes of afib after an ablation. In fact, it’s not terribly uncommon to have afib on and off during the blanking period.
I wouldn’t get discouraged just yet. Things may very well settle down in a few weeks.
Please keep in touch and I wish you well.
My AFib stopped after 16 hours. Now I’m having nonstop PAC’s. Praying it doesn’t turn into AFib.
Thought of you with the PAC’s Hoping you are feeling better with them.
This is not fun! But hopefully worth it in the end.
Thanks again for the help.
Glad to hear the Afib stopped. I wish I could tell you those PACs will settle down soon but as you know, I’ve been battling them on and off for over a year. Still, though, I’d rather battle those than afib!
Hang in there and please keep us posted!
Well, I am at 5 weeks post ablation. No AFib episodes or PAC’s in 2 weeks, just some annoying increase in heart rate when I get up and try to walk around. I ended up with Gastritis from all the medications so they took me off the blood thinners at 4 weeks post ablation. I am just on baby aspirin.
I am so tired and still cannot do much which is disappointing but I am guessing normal after two straight weeks of off and on AFib after the procedure and then gastritis.
I just finished my 30 day monitor as well. But I am like you, so symptomatic when anything happens with my heart I know the results! Ha
Anyone else still so fatigued or have increased heart rate when moving around? It goes up over 100. Resting is around 80.
Really was hoping to be one of those who was up and back to life within a week!
Hope your PAC’s have settled a little bit.
I’m so glad to hear things have settled down for you and that things are improving. I love hearing stories like this! Thanks for sharing this and keeping us up-to-date.
Everyone’s recovery is so different. You’ll talk to one person and they’ll say their recovery was basically a non-event (that was me). Then you’ll talk to another person and they’ll say it was “rough” and took a few months to get back to normal.
At the end of the day, be strong and have faith that you’re on the way to a full recovery and that someday *soon* this too shall pass! And keep reminding yourself that while you might be tired and life might not be ” perfectly normal,” your afib is gone! Let that be your inspiration to get you through your recovery.
If you’ve been following my journey you know I’ve had struggles with PVCs and PACs for the past year. Some days are really bad. What keeps me upbeat and going, however, is my faith in God that someday these will pass and my belief that I WILL have a normal heart again. I also keep reminding myself how fortunate I am. Instead of battling benign PVCs and PACs, I could be battling afib.
At any rate, Cindy, I wish you continued improvement and please keep in touch!
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