Cardiac telemetry monitoring

  • Cardiac telemetry is a way of continuously monitoring your child’s heart while they are in hospital. A portable battery-powered device called a telemetry unit collects data to display on a hospital monitor at your child’s bedside. This data may also be displayed at a central staff station.

    Your child can carry the telemetry unit around with them in a bag, which means that they are able to move around the ward (if the doctor has given them permission).

    Cardiac telemetry is used to monitor:

    • the pattern of your child’s heart rhythm pre- or post-surgery
    • abnormal heart rhythms
    • the effect cardiac medications have on your child’s heart rhythm.

    The telemetry unit

    Each unit has five different coloured leads that are attached to stickers (electrodes) on your child’s torso. These leads pick up electrical signals from your child’s heart and send them to the telemetry unit. The electrical signals show up like waves on hospital monitors, and help nurses and doctors assess your child’s heart rhythm, identify changes and respond to any abnormalities.

    Notify your nurse if your child has any chest pain, discomfort, sweatiness or nausea.

    • If the leads fall off, call your nurse who will place them back in the correct position. Do not attempt to replace them yourself as incorrect placement can interfere with the telemetry reading.
    • Never take off the telemetry unit leads yourself.
    • The nurses will respond to any monitor alarms. The telemetry unit is wirelessly connected to the bedside monitor. The monitor will alarm if there is an irregularity in the heartbeat, or if your child is very active and causing movement in the telemetry leads. 
    • The telemetry unit is not waterproof. Your child cannot shower or have a bath with the device. Ask your nurse if your child is allowed to shower with a break from the telemetry monitoring. Please ensure your child does not lock the bathroom.

    Moving around with the unit

    If it’s OK with your child’s doctor, your child can get out of bed and move around with the unit. Your child can be monitored anywhere on the ward.

    It is important that you and your child inform nursing staff when leaving the room or going to the bathroom so they know where your child is if there is a change in their heart rhythm. Be aware of the following when your child moves around with the unit:

    • The telemetry unit will beep when it is out of range of the central monitor on the ward. It is very important that you return to the bedside unit so that staff can continue to monitor your child’s heart. If the unit is beeping while you are on the ward, please tell your nurse as the batteries may need to be changed. 
    • Your child can go anywhere on the ward accompanied by a parent or a nurse as long as you inform your nurse of your child’s location. If your child walks away from the unit out of range, staff may not be able to monitor or respond to any rhythm changes, which could be life threatening.
    • If your child goes to the bathroom, do not lock the door. Instead, use a door hanger that you can get from your nurse to indicate that the bathroom is in use.

     Never leave the ward unless you have permission from your cardiology doctor.

    Key points to remember

    • Do not remove the telemetry unit leads. If the leads come off, inform your nurse so they can be reattached – do not try to replace them yourself.
    • Inform your nurse when you and your child are leaving your room, and never leave the ward unless your child has permission from their cardiology doctor.
    • When your child uses the bathroom, make sure they do not lock the door.
    • If the telemetry unit is beeping, return to the bedside unit and tell your nurse.

    For more information

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    How long will my child need to be monitored?

    Your child will be monitored until their condition is stable and it is safe for them to be off continuous monitoring. Your child’s doctors will make this decision.

    Can the leads cause irritation to my child’s sensitive skin?

    Your nurse will assess your child’s skin and replace the electrodes on a daily basis. Regular care to ensure clean and dry skin helps the electrodes to stick to the skin easily. If your child has skin treatments (e.g. steroid creams for eczema), these can still be used during telemetry.

    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Cardiology department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed October 2018.

    This information is awaiting routine review. Please always seek the most recent advice from a registered and practising clinician.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit


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