How is sick sinus syndrome diagnosed?
A slow pulse, especially one that is irregular, may be the first indication of sick sinus syndrome. Electrocardiography (ECGs) is a commonly used method of detecting sick sinus syndrome. ECG monitoring for 24 hours is most useful, since with this syndrome, heart rate may alternate between slow and fast, and the determination of this fact can help differentiate sick sinus
syndrome from other arrhythmias.
Diagnosis of sick sinus syndrome begins with a history and physical exam. A heart tracing, called an electrocardiogram or ECG, can confirm the diagnosis. This test records the electrical activity in the heart, which is abnormal when symptoms occur.
Because symptoms come and go, a Holter monitor is often used to track the electrical activity of the heart over a longer period of time. This monitor can be worn for 24 hours or more, so that a heart tracing can be obtained during symptoms. If the abnormal electrical activity of sick sinus syndrome is seen on the heart tracing when symptoms occur, the diagnosis can be made.
Electrocardiograms (ECGs or EKGs) provide a record of the heart's electrical activity. This simple test records any abnormal findings in the heart's electrical impulses. Electrodes are placed on the arms and chest to monitor electrical activity, which is recorded on graph paper. Information can be obtained during rest or exercise. Sometimes a 24-hour ECG (Holter monitor) is used to show a change in rhythm over time while you go about daily activities.
Echocardiograms (ECHOs) may be ordered if your doctor suspects a problem with the heart muscle or one of the valves that channel blood through the heart. During an ECHO, sound waves are bounced off the heart, and the returning signals are converted into a moving image on a video screen.