Implantable loop recorder (ILR)

Implantable heart rhythm monitor

An ILR is a small device that is implanted under your skin to record your heart’s electrical activity

What is an Implantable Loop Recorder (ILR)?

An ILR is a small, electronic device which is inserted under the skin on the left side of your chest. It monitors your heart rhythm over time, without interfering in your daily life. Sometimes ILRs are worn for up to three years.

Once inserted, an ILR is invisible. It has no patches or wires, so it won’t interfere with your daily activities.

Your doctor may recommend an implantable loop recorder (ILR) if you are experiencing symptoms like abnormal heartbeats (cardiac arrhythmia), blackouts (syncope) or dizzy spells which cannot be explained by a routine ECG test or Holter monitor. Implantable loop recorders (sometimes called cardiac event recorders) help your doctor to understand the cause of your symptoms, particularly if you experience them irregularly. Your doctor may also recommend an ILR if you are at risk of a stroke. Your risk of stroke is higher if you are diagnosed with certain types of cardiac arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation

Implantable loop recorders work by recording the electrical signals in your heart, to detect changes in your heart rhythm. This information is then downloaded by your doctor, to help them make an accurate diagnosis and decide on the best treatment plan for you.

An implantable loop recorder can stay in place for up to three years. Once the doctors know what is causing your symptoms, they may decide to start treatment, replace or remove the ILR.

Implantable Loop Recorder Procedure

Fitting someone with an ILR is a quick and simple procedure. You will be given pain relief to make you more comfortable, however you will be awake. In most cases, it takes no longer than 20 or 30 minutes to fit an ILR, so you will be able to go home shortly afterwards.

An ILR is a small device, no bigger than your little finger. It is inserted into the skin below your collarbone, on the left side of your chest. You will be given a local anaesthetic to numb the area, and a tiny incision (cut) - around 1cm in length - will be made in your skin. The ILR will then be placed under your skin, and the incision will be closed with surgical glue or stitches. You should keep the wound area dry until the stitches are removed (around 1 week later) and it has healed fully.

Once your ILR has been fitted, you will be monitored for a few hours before being discharged. Your blood pressure, pulse, temperature and the site of the wound will be checked to make sure it is safe for you to go home.

Your cardiologist will give you a transmitting device, to put beside your bed. This device sends the information recorded by your ILR to your doctor whilst you are asleep. You can also press a button on the transmitter to send information from your ILR to your doctor immediately if you notice symptoms (such as irregular heartbeats, fainting or dizzy spells). 

A member of our cardiology team will show you how to look after the ILR, keep the skin around the site of the incision clean and answer any questions you may have.

You will be given a follow-up appointment to see a cardiologist in the coming weeks, to make sure that your ILR is working properly.

It is a good idea to avoid driving, or placing a seatbelt over the site of your implant, for at least 1-2 days. If you find using a seatbelt uncomfortable after this time, you may find it helpful to use some extra padding over the site of the ILR.

Living with an Implantable Loop Recorder

An ILR will not interfere with your day-to-day life. 

You may find that the site of the incision is slightly swollen, red or bruised for a few days or weeks after having your ILR fitted, but this will disappear gradually. You should avoid strenuous activity until your cardiologist says that it is safe.

Driving if you have an implantable loop recorder
Once your wound has completely healed, you will be able to do everything that you did before you had the device fitted, including driving. However, it’s a good idea to wait a few days for the wound to heal before you drive.

Doing sports and exercise if you have an implantable loop recorder
For most people, it is perfectly safe to take part in sports and go to the gym with an ILR. You can even go swimming once the wound has healed completely. 

However, you should try to avoid direct impact on the site of the ILR. Although this is unlikely to damage the device, you might find it uncomfortable. 

If you experienced symptoms before having your ILR fitted which prevented you from taking part in sports or physical activities, then it’s important to speak to your cardiologist before trying anything new. 

Bathing and showering with an ILR
You should keep the wound dry until your stitches have been removed and it has healed completely. You should avoid showering for the first 5 days and have a strip-wash or shallow bath instead. Many people also find it easier to wash their hair over the sink. Once the wound has healed and the dressing has been removed, you can bathe and shower as usual. You can wash the area with water, but make sure you pat it dry instead of rubbing it.

Flying and travelling abroad if you have an ILR
You will be able to travel abroad and fly with an ILR fitted. You can go through airport security scanners without a problem. You will be given a device identification card which you should carry with you when you are travelling. This tells security staff that you have an ILR fitted, in case you set off the airport metal detectors. 

If you have a bedside or handheld monitor, then make sure you take it with you whenever you travel. They will work anywhere, which means your heart activity can still be monitored when you are travelling.

Going to see your GP or going into hospital
If you visit a doctor for any kind of medical test, it’s important to tell them that you are fitted with an ILR. 

  • You must not have an MRI scan for 6 weeks after having your ILR fitted. After 6 weeks it is considered safe, however you must let the doctor know in advance. 
  • If you are going to have surgery which requires a general anaesthetic, or any other kind of medical treatment, it’s important to let your cardiology team know.
  • You should also let your dentist know that you have an ILR before receiving any treatment.

Generally speaking, you can live a completely normal life with an ILR. Just make sure you take your device identification card and bedside or handheld monitor with you whenever you travel, and tell your cardiologist if you’re receiving any other medical treatments.

How much does an Implantable Loop Recorder cost?

Having an implantable loop recorder fitted is a simple process which, in most cases, can be done on an out-patient basis. This means that you won’t need to stay in hospital overnight. 

There are several different options available for paying for your ILR. In some cases, the procedure is covered by private medical insurance. Speak to your insurer to find out whether you are covered for this treatment, and whether any conditions apply. 

You can also choose to pay for your treatment privately using your preferred payment method. We will provide you with a clear and transparent quote for fitting you with an implantable loop recorder, so that you’re not surprised by any hidden costs or additional charges.

If you would like to find out more about our payment options, then you can telephone us on: 020 3811 7567, or use our online appointment service. We’ll be happy to talk you through the options.

FAQs about implantable loop recorders

Are there any side effects?

Having an ILR fitted is a straightforward procedure and side effects are uncommon. However, some people do experience minor problems such as bleeding or bruising at the site of the wound. In most cases, this is nothing to worry about and these symptoms will disappear within a few weeks. 

If you have had an ILR fitted, you should check the site every day to make sure that it is healing properly. If the wound looks red, angry or inflamed, appears open, is painful to touch or is oozing yellow or green fluid, then it may be infected. You should contact your GP or cardiac care team immediately and arrange an appointment.

In very rare cases, implantation of an ILR can result in complications including damage to the heart or blood vessels. 

If you experience any of the above symptoms, or are worried about your ILR in any way, then contact your treatment team immediately, as you may need to have your ILR removed.

How is an ILR removed?

Your cardiologist will advise you about how long you need to wear your ILR. It may be for several months, or in some cases up to three years.

Your cardiologist will monitor the information collected by your ILR and you will go for routine check-ups every few months whilst the device is in place.

Once a diagnosis has been made, if a new battery is required, or if you are experiencing side effects, then your cardiologist may decide to remove your ILR. The process of removing an ILR is straightforward. You will be given a local anaesthetic to numb the area, and the ILR will be removed through a small incision.  

Will my ILR be affected by household appliances?

No. Your ILR will not be affected by normal electrical appliances in the home, or by your mobile phone. However, you should avoid placing your mobile phone in your breast pocket or in a bag close to your ILR.

Our cardiologists

HCA UK is a world-leader in cardiac care.

Our renowned cardiologists are experts in implantable loop recorders. They use the latest diagnostic technology and minimally invasive techniques to provide you with the most accurate, thorough diagnosis and treatment options available. 

If you require an implantable loop recorder, then you can rest assured that you will receive the very highest level of care from our expert cardiology teams.

Our locations

From complex cardiothoracic surgery to tests and diagnostic procedures, we provide exceptional cardiac care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Book an appointment

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020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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