Atrial fibrillation detection from raw photoplethysmography waveforms: A deep learning application

Heart Rhythm O2. 2020 Apr 27;1(1):3-9. doi: 10.1016/j.hroo.2020.02.002. eCollection 2020 Apr.


Background: Atrial fibrillation (AF), a common cause of stroke, often is asymptomatic. Smartphones and smartwatches can detect AF using heart rate patterns inferred using photoplethysmography (PPG); however, enhanced accuracy is required to reduce false positives in screening populations.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that a deep learning algorithm given raw, smartwatch-derived PPG waveforms would discriminate AF from normal sinus rhythm better than algorithms using heart rate alone.

Methods: Patients presenting for cardioversion of AF (n = 51) were given wrist-worn fitness trackers containing PPG sensors (Jawbone Health). Standard 12-lead electrocardiograms over-read by board-certified cardiac electrophysiologists were used as the reference standard. The accuracy of PPG signals to discriminate AF from sinus rhythm was evaluated by conventional measures of heart rate variability, a long short-term memory (LSTM) neural network given heart rate data only, and a deep convolutional-recurrent neural net (DNN) given the raw PPG data.

Results: From among 51 patients with persistent AF (age 63.6 ± 11.3 years; 78% male; 88% white), we randomly assigned 40 to train and 11 to test the algorithms. Whereas logistic regression analysis of heart rate variability yielded an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of 0.717 (sensitivity 0.741; specificity 0.584), the LSTM model given heart rate data exhibited AUC of 0.954 (sensitivity 0.810; specificity 0.921), and the DNN model given raw PPG data yielded the highest AUC of 0.983 (sensitivity 0.985; specificity 0.880).

Conclusion: A deep learning model given the raw PPG-based signal resulted in AF detection with high accuracy, performing better than conventional analyses relying on heart rate series data alone.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence; Atrial fibrillation; Heart rate sensor; Machine learning; Mobile health; Photoplethysmography; Smartwatch; Wearable.