Characterization of atrial fibrillation using the surface ECG: time-dependent spectral properties

IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2001 Jan;48(1):19-27. doi: 10.1109/10.900245.


Time-frequency analysis is considered for characterizing atrial fibrillation in the surface electrocardiogram (ECG). Variations in fundamental frequency of the fibrillatory waves are tracked by using different time-frequency distributions which are appropriate to short- and long-term variations. The cross Wigner-Ville distribution is found to be particularly useful for short-term analysis due to its ability to handle poor signal-to-noise ratios. In patients with chronic atrial fibrillation, substantial short-term variations exist in fibrillation frequency and variations up to 2.5 Hz can be observed within a few seconds. Although time-frequency analysis is performed independently in each lead, short-term variations in fibrillation frequency often exhibit a similar pattern in the leads V1, V2 and V3. Using different techniques for short- and long-term analysis, it is possible to reliably detect subtle long-term changes in fibrillation frequency, e.g., related to an intervention, which otherwise would have been obscured by spontaneous variations in fibrillation frequency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted*