My Experience with the Zio Patch
There’s nothing glamorous about wearing a heart monitor. And on top of that, having to wear it for weeks or months while going about your day normally is no easy feat. However, there’s a new, more “fashionable” monitor called the Zio patch that claims to eliminate the annoyances of the other heart monitors while offering superior diagnostics.
Well, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to wear the Zio patch for 7 days on the order of my cardiologist/POTS specialist. So what is it exactly? It’s a small device placed on your skin that continuously measures the heart’s rhythms. With no interruptions, it minimizes missing critical information. This can help your doctor look for heart rate trends, rhythm abnormalities, burden on the heart, and many other things. In my case, I believe my doctor wanted to see if my symptoms correlated with my heart rhythm.
My Zio patch was placed at my doctor’s office. It literally took 5 minutes. A nurse cleaned and prepped my skin (if you are hairy, a razor will be used to remove any hair). Then the area was lightly rubbed with a piece of sandpaper (at least that’s what it felt like) to abrade the skin, which improves the adhesion and signal of the Zio patch. Before leaving, the nurse gave me comprehensive instructions on how to use the Zio patch, record my symptoms in the provided journal, and how to return it.
For me, I found the journal to be a bit of a hassle to carry around. If it wasn’t within reach of when I had symptoms, I had to make a mental note to record it later. I decided to download the Zio app (on the iPhone) because my phone is always with me. Recording on the app was a lot easier and faster. Whenever I felt something, I would just open the app and select “Quick Symptom Log” or “Add Symptom(s).” Then the same questions as the journal appeared on the next screen. I had to report the date, time, what symptoms I was experiencing, duration of symptoms, and what activity I was doing at that moment. If you like to be extremely detailed in describing what you were doing, then you may not like the app with its character limit.
For the most part, the Zio patch didn’t disrupt my daily routine. In fact, I was on vacation in Ojai the majority of the time. A few things I had to avoid was being submerged in water and excessive sweating (such as from exercise) because the Zio patch is water RESISTANT not water PROOF. A quick shower should not affect the Zio patch, but my nurse instructed me to tape plastic wrap before I showered. It was a bit of a pain. But this ensured no soap and water would touch the Zio patch to preserve it.
When the week was over, all I had to do was remove the Zio patch with the remover pad. The remover pad had a pleasant floral scent and a cooling sensation on my skin. I attached the Zio patch to the booklet and sent everything back to iRhythm using the pre-addressed stamped box. Once iRhythm received the Zio patch, my results are sent to my doctor for review.
At my follow-up appointment, it began with the nurse taking my orthostatic measurements — blood pressure and heart rate measured lying down, upon standing, and standing after a minute. The doctor came in shortly after to go over my results and vitals. We discussed in detail what happened during each episode. He mentioned around noon every day I would have tachycardia and symptoms, and asked if I was exercising during that time. I hadn’t worked out since my relapse last July so definitely it was not heavy exertion that caused my episodes. Most of my episodes occurred when I was sitting doing something relaxing like watching TV.
In the end, he felt it was not necessary to prescribe medications because he didn’t want to over treat me since I didn’t have frequent episodes and was improving with time. Based on vitals, I still met the criteria for POTS (pulse went from 60 to 97). But it was my low blood pressure (not tachycardia) that my doctor seemed more concerned about since I said I never notice my tachycardia. I was told to up my water intake to 3 liters per day and begin working out slowly to improve my blood pressure and heart rate. So the good news was my POTS was getting better and I don’t need medications. I did feel a bit let down because I didn’t get any new information, and I just needed to keep doing what I’ve been doing on my own all these years. He wants me to follow-up in a year or if I have another severe relapse. Don’t get me wrong. My doctor is great and extremely knowledgeable. I’m fortunate to have him on my team as he is one of the most sought after POTS specialist. Guess it was too much hoping for a miracle that would get me to 100% normal.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE ZIO PATCH
It is smaller and less of an inconvenience compared to the Holter monitor or event monitor. I’ve worn a Holter monitor before so I can tell you that it was a pain fidgeting with wires, connecting leads, and making sure the battery was charged at all times. With the Zio patch, all of that is eliminated. To conceal, just avoid skin tight or low-cut clothing. It didn’t bother me if it was visible. If anything, it makes a good conversation starter if someone asked about it! Another plus with the Zio patch is I didn’t have to remove it when I showered. With the Holter monitor, as soon as I took it off, the relentless beeping would force me to shower quickly so I could put it back on.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
At times, the adhesive became extremely itchy. I would scratch around the area hoping it would provide some relief. Instead, I ended up being an inflamed red mess. All I could do is wait for the itchiness to go away on its own. But that wasn’t even the worst part. Removing the Zio patch HURT! The adhesive that keeps the Zio patch on is no joke. I didn’t feel the remover pad helped with dislodging it from my skin. The pad felt nice when rubbed on my skin after I ripped the Zio patch off. It took about a week for my skin to fully heal.
Overall, I liked the Zio patch. If you have to wear a heart monitor, I would highly recommend it if given the option (and if your insurance covers it). I may not have gained more insight on my health situation, but many others could benefit from the Zio patch.
If you’ve worn the Zio patch or other monitors, would love to hear from you. What did you like/dislike? Did you have any struggles? Did it lead to any more information or a treatment plan? Let me know your experience!