Cardiac arrhythmias in horses are diagnosed by auscultation or electrocardiogram (ECG), which results in a low sensitivity for detecting arrhythmias that occur sporadically. Implantable loop recorders (ILRs) are small ECG devices placed subcutaneously, to automatically detect arrhythmias in human patients.
To test ILRs ability to detect atrial fibrillation (AF) in horses. Further, we hypothesised that anatomical location of the implant site might influence signal quality. Signal quality was evaluated both during exercise and over time.
In five Standardbred mares, eleven ILRs were implanted subcutaneously in up to three different positions (Front: pectoral region, Left-6: sixth left intercostal space, Ventral: xiphoid region) and AF induced. The R and T wave amplitudes were measured in all positions over time during AF. AF burden automatically registered by the ILRs over a 2-month period were compared with selected Holter ECG recordings.
All three positions had stable R and T wave amplitudes during the study period and were of sufficient quality to allow AF detection at rest. The position Left-6 showed significantly higher R and T wave amplitudes compared to the other positions. During submaximal exercise only the Left-6 position was able to record ECG signals of diagnostic quality. No position yielded diagnostic signals at maximum exercise due to artefacts.
Few horses and ILRs included and no spontaneous AF episodes were studied.
This preliminary study indicates that ILRs can be used for AF detection in horses, but the anatomical location is important for optimal ECG quality. Despite insufficient quality during exercise, ILRs were suitable for AF detection at rest. Therefore, the ILR may be a valuable diagnostic tool for detecting paroxysmal AF in horses.
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