Insertable cardiac monitors in the diagnosis of syncope and the detection of atrial fibrillation: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2016 Aug;23(12):1261-72. doi: 10.1177/2047487316632628. Epub 2016 Feb 10.


Background: Insertable or implantable cardiac monitors (ICMs) continuously monitor the heart rhythm and record irregularities over 3 years, enabling the diagnosis of infrequent rhythm abnormalities associated with syncope and stroke. The enhanced recognition capabilities of recent ICM models are able to accurately detect atrial fibrillation (AF) and have led to new applications of ICMs for the detection and monitoring of AF.

Methods and results: Based on a systematic literature search, two indications were identified for ICMs for which considerable evidence, including randomized studies, exists: diagnosing the underlying cardiac cause of unexplained recurrent syncope and detecting AF in patients after cryptogenic stroke (CS). Three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were identified that compared the effectiveness of ICMs in diagnosing patients with unexplained syncope (n = 556) to standard of care. A meta-analysis was conducted in order to generate an overall effect size and confidence interval of the diagnostic yield of ICMs versus conventional monitoring. In the indication CS, one RCT and five observational studies were included in order to assess the performance of ICMs in diagnosing patients with AF (n = 1129). Based on these studies, there is strong evidence that ICMs provide a higher diagnostic yield for detecting arrhythmias in patients with unexplained syncope and for detection of AF in patients after CS compared to conventional monitoring.

Conclusions: Prolonged monitoring with ICMs is an effective tool for diagnosing the underlying cardiac cause of unexplained syncope and for detecting AF in patients with CS. In all RCTs, ICMs have a superior diagnostic yield compared to conventional monitoring.

Keywords: Review; ambulatory electrocardiography; atrial fibrillation; cardiovascular diagnostic technique; stroke.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnostic imaging*
  • Electrocardiography, Ambulatory / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Stroke / diagnosis
  • Syncope / diagnosis*