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DIY ECG Trial 1


I have simplified and improved my ECG machine design! Check out the new post:


I’ve succeeded in building my own electrocardiograph (ECG) to record the electrical activity of my own heart! Briefly, I built a micropotential amplifier using an op-amp and attached it to makeshift electrodes on my chest (pennies and shampoo lol), fed the amplified signal into my sound card, and recorded it as a WAV. The signal is INCREDIBLY noisy though. I was able to do a great job at removing this noise using band/frequency filters in GoldWave (audio editing software designed to handle WAV files). I band-blocked 50-70 Hz (which removed the oscillations from the 60 Hz AC lines running around my apartment). I then wrote the Python code (at the bottom of this entry) to load this WAV file as a single list of numbers (voltage potentials). I performed a data condensation algorithm (converting 100 points of raw WAV data into a single, averaged point, lessening my processing load by 100x), followed by two consecutative moving window averages (20-point window, performed on the condensed data). The result was a voltage reading that had most of the random interference oscillations removed and, behold, a BEAUTIFUL ECG signal!!! I also tossed in some code to determine the peak of the R wave, label it (yellow dot), and use the inverse R-R time distance to calculate heart rate. Nifty, huh?

I swear, this is legitimate data that I recorded myself tonight! This is my actual ECC signal as record by a circuit similar to the one in the previous entry, recorded through my sound card, and processed with the Python script below. Incredible, huh? You can clearly see the Q, R, S, and T spikes (described in the previous couple entries)! I can’t wait to solder-up a prototype (it’s currently breadboarded) and try to analyze hours of data rather than just a few seconds! I’ll take pictures of this device soon. Until then, here’s some real data!

This is a zoomed-in view of a representative QRST wave of mine. Amazing, huh? I’m proud of my ticker! =o)

This is the output of the python script I wrote tonight

And here’s the code I used: note that it relies on the WAV file I recorded – if you want it just ask me for it and I’ll email it to you – it’s about 12 sec long. Oh yeah, not all of the functions in this script are used to create the image (such as integration calculations), but I left ‘em in because you may find them useful.

 import wave, struct, numpy, pylab, scipy  
 def readwave(wavfilename):  
     """load raw data directly from a WAV file."""  
     global rate  
     (nchannel, width, rate, length, comptype, compname) = w.getparams()  
     print "[%s] %d HZ (%0.2fsec)" %(wavfilename, rate, length/float(rate))  
     frames = w.readframes(length)  
     return numpy.array(struct.unpack("%sh" %length*nchannel,frames))  
 def shrink(data,deg=100):  
     """condense a linear data array by a multiple of [deg]."""  
     global rate  
     print "starting with", len(data)  
     for i in range(len(data)/deg):  
     print "ending with", len(small)  
     rate = rate/deg  
     return small  
 def normalize(data):  
     """make all data fit between -.5 and +.5"""  
     return data  
 def smooth(data,deg=20):  
     """moving window average (deg = window size)."""  
     for i in range(len(data)-deg):  
         if i==0: cur,smooth=sum(data[0:deg]),[]  
     return smooth  
 def makeabs(data):  
     """center linear data to its average value."""  
     for i in range(len(data)): data[i]=abs(data[i])  
     return data  
 def invert(data):  
     for i in range(len(data)): data[i]=-data[i]  
     return data  
 def loadwav(fname='./wavs/bandpassed.wav'):  
     """a do-everything function to get usable, smoothed data from a WAV."""  
     return Xs,wav  
 def getXs(datalen):  
     """calculate time positions based on WAV frequency resolution."""  
     for i in range(len(datalen)):  
     print len(datalen), len(Xs)  
     return Xs  
 def integrate(data):  
     """integrate the function with respect to its order."""  
     for i in range(len(data)-1):  
     return inte  
 def getPoints(Xs,data,res=10):  
     """return X,Y coordinates of R peaks and calculate R-R based heartrate."""  
     for i in range(res,len(data)-res):  
         if data[i]>data[i-res]+.1 and data[i]>data[i+res]+.1:  
             if data[i]>data[i-1] and data[i]>data[i+1]:  
                 if len(pXs)>1:   
     return pXs,pYs,pHRs  
 pylab.title("DIY Electrocardiogram - Trial 1",fontsize=26)  
 pylab.ylabel("Normalized Potential",fontsize=16)  
 #pylab.xlabel("Time (sec)")  
 pylab.ylabel("Heart Rate (BPM)",fontsize=16)  
 pylab.xlabel("Time (seconds)",fontsize=16)  
 print "DONE"  

About the author

Scott W Harden

Scott Harden has had a lifelong passion for computer programming and electrical engineering, and recently has become interested in its relationship with biomolecular sciences. He has run a personal website since he was 15, which has changed names from HardenTechnologies.com, to KnightHacker.com, to ScottIsHot.com, to its current SWHarden.com. Scott has been in college for 10 years, with 3 more years to go. He has an AA in Biology (Valencia College), BS in Cell Biology (Union University), MS in Molecular Biology and Microbiology (University of Central Florida), and is currently in a combined DMD (doctor of dental medicine) / PhD (neuroscience) program through the collaboration of the College of Dentistry and College of Medicine (Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Science, IDP) at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. In his spare time Scott builds small electrical devices (with an emphasis on radio frequency) and enjoys writing cross-platform open-source software.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.SWHarden.com/blog/2009-01-15-diy-ecg-trial-1/


  1. Kent Willis

    Great job, Scott.

  2. jolo

    I am interested with your project and i want to build one for me. I searched of an ecg circuit and found ad620 and LM358 as an amplifier.. I wired my ecg circuit to the input of my soundcard in laptop but i only saw a very small wave. I am also curious about the use of python. I hope yo would help me about this.I am hoping for your response . Thank you

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