Implantable Loop Recorder

An Implantable Loop Recorder (ILR) is a very small device which constantly monitors your heartbeat.

What is an ILR?

An Implantable Loop Recorder (also known as an ILR) is a very small device which constantly monitors your heartbeat. The ILR device is inserted underneath your skin, on the left side of your chest. When you’re experiencing symptoms, you can capture and record your heart rate simply by placing a hand held ‘activator’ over the spot where the ILR has been inserted, or use an activation button on your smartphone app (if you have one).

Why do I need an ILR?

The implantable loop recorder is a useful device which helps your doctor determine whether any symptoms you might be experiencing are related to heart disease. Your doctor may recommend an implantable loop recorder if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Syncope (fainting)
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Light-headedness
  • Palpitations – heart racing

Your doctor may also recommend a loop recorder to assess for atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm) in the context of an unexplained stroke. 

What are the risks of having an ILR?

The Implantable Loop Recorder is a low-risk procedure, performed by a specialist heart doctor (electrophysiologist). There may be initial bruising where the ILR was implanted - particularly if you are taking blood-thinning medications.

Your doctor will explain the risks to you before you agree to the procedure - and you’re also encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns with your medical team.

How do I prepare for an ILR?

You can prepare for your ILR procedure by:

  • Asking your doctor about taking your usual medications - especially if you take diabetes or blood thinning medications. If you take SGLT2 medicine for diabetes, you will need to stop taking them at least 3 days before your surgery. Read our Patient Information Guide on SGLT2 inhibitors for diabetes.
  • Not eating and drinking - for at least six hours before the procedure begins
  • Removing any jewellery - and wearing a hospital gown immediately before the procedure

What happens during and ILR procedure?

Your ILR procedure takes place in an operating room. You will be taken to the procedure and asked to lie on an operating table. Throughout the procedure you will be awake, and before  it begins your doctor may offer you sedation to help you relax.

During the procedure your doctor will:

  • Give you local anaesthetic to numb the area
  • Make an incision in your upper chest area
  • Gently insert the device
  • Stitch the area of incision - In some cases this will need to be removed by your GP in seven days. 
  • Dress the wound

The procedure will take about 15 to 20 minutes.

What happens after an ILR?

When your ILR procedure is finished, you’ll be moved to the recovery area or to the cardiac ward to rest. You may be tender or sore and have some bruising at the site of the procedure - this should go away after two weeks.

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to use the activator and when to make follow-up appointments. It is important to carry the activator with you at all times, so you can capture and record any episodes whenever you’re experiencing symptoms.

Generally, ILRs last for four years. You may not need to wear it for this long if your symptoms improve. When you leave the hospital, your doctor will give you a personalised treatment plan which will include ongoing follow-up to monitor how well your device is working and determine how long you need to keep it for.