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Atrial Fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia worldwide with a global age adjusted prevalence of 0.5% in 2010. Anticoagulation treatment using warfarin or direct oral anticoagulants is effective in reducing the risk of AF-related stroke by approximately two-thirds and can provide a 10% reduction in overall mortality. There has been increased interest in detecting AF due to its increased incidence and the possibility to prevent AF-related strokes. Inexpensive consumer devices which measure the ECG may have the potential to accurately detect AF but do not generally incorporate diagnostic algorithms. Machine learning algorithms have the potential to improve patient outcomes particularly where diagnoses are made from large volumes or complex patterns of data such as in AF. Methods We designed a novel AF detection algorithm using a de-correlated Lorenz plot of 60 consecutive RR intervals. In order to reduce the volume of data, the resulting images were compressed using a wavelet transformation (JPEG200 algorithm) and the compressed images were used as input data to a Support Vector Machine (SVM) classifier. We used the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—Beth Israel Hospital (BIH) Atrial Fibrillation database and the MIT-BIH Arrhythmia database as training data and verified the algorithm performance using RR intervals collected using an inexpensive consumer heart rate monitor device (Polar-H7) in a case-control study. Results The SVM algorithm yielded excellent discrimination in the training data with a sensitivity of 99.2% and a specificity of 99.5% for AF. In the validation data, the SVM algorithm correctly identified AF in 79/79 cases; sensitivity 100% (95% CI 95.4%-100%) and non-AF in 328/336 cases; specificity 97.6% (95% CI 95.4%-99.0%). Conclusions An inexpensive wearable heart rate monitor and machine learning algorithm can be used to detect AF with very high accuracy and has the capability to transmit ECG data which could be used to confirm AF. It could potentially be used for intermittent screening or continuously for prolonged periods to detect paroxysmal AF. Further work could lead to cost-effective and accurate estimation of AF burden and improved risk stratification in AF.

More information Original publication




Journal article


Plos One


Plos One

Publication Date



Project No. 318 PI: Mark Lown