Update: The DIY ECG project has had several iterations. The latest one can be viewed here: https://www.swharden.com/wp/2019-03-15-sound-card-ecg-with-ad8232/

Warning: This post is several years old and the author has marked it as poor quality (compared to more recent posts). It has been left intact for historical reasons, but but its content (and code) may be inaccurate or poorly written.

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), fed the amplified signal into my sound card, and recorded it as a WAV. The signal is very 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 consecutive moving window averages (20-point window, performed on the condensed data). The result was a voltage reading that had most of the noise removed and a beautiful ECG signal emerged! 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.

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. You can start to see the Q, R, S, and T components. 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.

And here’s the code I used: note that it relies on the WAV file I recorded. This code has extra functions not required to produce the image above, but I left them in in case they may be useful.

 import wave, struct, numpy, pylab, scipy

 def readwave(wavfilename):
     """load raw data directly from a WAV file."""
     global rate
     w=wave.open(wavfilename,'rb')
     (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
     small=[]
     print "starting with", len(data)
     for i in range(len(data)/deg):
         small.append(numpy.average(data[i*deg:(i+1)*deg]))
     print "ending with", len(small)
     rate = rate/deg
     return small

 def normalize(data):
     """make all data fit between -.5 and +.5"""
     data=data-numpy.average(data)
     big=float(max(data))
     sml=float(min(data))
     data=data/abs(big-sml)
     data=data+float(abs(min(data)))-.47
     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]),[]
         smooth.append(cur/deg)
         cur=cur-data[i]+data[i+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):
     """obviously."""
     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."""
     wav=readwave(fname)
     wav=shrink(wav)
     wav=invert(wav)
     wav=smooth(wav)
     wav=smooth(wav,10)
     wav=normalize(wav)
     Xs=getXs(wav)
     return Xs,wav

 def getXs(datalen):
     """calculate time positions based on WAV frequency resolution."""
     Xs=[]
     for i in range(len(datalen)):
         Xs.append(i*(1/float(rate)))
     print len(datalen), len(Xs)
     return Xs

 def integrate(data):
     """integrate the function with respect to its order."""
     inte=[]
     for i in range(len(data)-1):
         inte.append(abs(data[i]-data[i+1]))
     inte.append(inte[-1])
     return inte

 def getPoints(Xs,data,res=10):
     """return X,Y coordinates of R peaks and calculate R-R based heartrate."""
     pXs,pYs,pHRs=[],[],[]
     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]:
                 pXs.append(Xs[i])
                 pYs.append(data[i])
                 if len(pXs)>1:
                     pHRs.append((1.0/(pXs[-1]-pXs[-2]))*60.0)
     pHRs.append(pHRs[-1])
     return pXs,pYs,pHRs

 Xs,Ys=loadwav()
 px,py,pHR=getPoints(Xs,Ys)

 pylab.figure(figsize=(12,6))
 pylab.subplot(2,1,1)
 #pylab.axhline(color='.4',linestyle=':')
 pylab.plot(Xs,Ys,'b-')
 pylab.plot(px,py,'y.')
 pylab.axis([None,None,-.6,.6])
 pylab.title("DIY Electrocardiogram - Trial 1",fontsize=26)
 pylab.ylabel("Normalized Potential",fontsize=16)
 #pylab.xlabel("Time (sec)")
 ax=pylab.axis()
 pylab.subplot(2,1,2)
 pylab.plot(px,pHR,'k:')
 pylab.plot(px,pHR,'b.')
 pylab.axis([ax[0],ax[1],None,None])
 pylab.ylabel("Heart Rate (BPM)",fontsize=16)
 pylab.xlabel("Time (seconds)",fontsize=16)
 pylab.savefig("test.png",dpi=120)
 pylab.show()
 print "DONE"




Update: The DIY ECG project has had several iterations. The latest one can be viewed here: https://www.swharden.com/wp/2019-03-15-sound-card-ecg-with-ad8232/

Warning: This post is several years old and the author has marked it as poor quality (compared to more recent posts). It has been left intact for historical reasons, but but its content (and code) may be inaccurate or poorly written.

I kept working on my DIY ECG machine (I had to change the values of some of the resisters) and it looks like I’m getting some valid signals! By recording the potential using my sound card (the microphone port seems to be a nice analog to digital converter that every PC has) I was able record my ECG with sound recording software, smooth it, and this is what it looks like.

This was based on a circuit I made using a single op-amp (A LM324 from RadioShack $1.49). The op-amp amplifies micro-potential generated by my heart and outputs it in a way that I can connect it to a microphone jack. The signal is very noisy though. I’m thinking about making the more advanced circuit (with 6 op-amps) to aim for a better signal-to-noise ratio, but first I’ll try coding my way out of the noise…





Update: The DIY ECG project has had several iterations. The latest one can be viewed here: https://www.swharden.com/wp/2019-03-15-sound-card-ecg-with-ad8232/

Warning: This post is several years old and the author has marked it as poor quality (compared to more recent posts). It has been left intact for historical reasons, but but its content (and code) may be inaccurate or poorly written.

I followed-through on yesterday’s post and actually tried to build an ECG machine. I had a very small amount of time to work on it, so instead of building the fancy circuit (with 6 band-pass filtered op-amps and diodes posted in the previous entry) I built the most crude circuit that would theoretically work.

I used just one of the 4 available op-amps from a LM324. I built this, hooked it up to my sound card, and made electrodes by soldering wires to pennies. After a good lick, I attached the pennies to my chest with tape and tried recording. Every time the pennies made contact with my skin, I would see noise on the trace, but I couldn’t seem to isolate a strong heartbeat signal. This is what I saw and the circuit I build to see it:

Perhaps this project will be working soon. Many techno-savvy people have made these DIY ECG machines, but not many describe how to interpret the data. Since I’m planning on building it, testing it, recording ECG data, and processing/analyzing it, I’ll may have something unique on the internet.





Update: The DIY ECG project has had several iterations. The latest one can be viewed here: https://www.swharden.com/wp/2019-03-15-sound-card-ecg-with-ad8232/

Warning: This post is several years old and the author has marked it as poor quality (compared to more recent posts). It has been left intact for historical reasons, but but its content (and code) may be inaccurate or poorly written.

Last night my wife put her head on my chest while we were watching a movie. A minute or two later I felt a light sinking feeling in my upper chest, and my wife looked up at me in horror. “Your heart stopped beating!” I assured her that everything was okay (it quickly resumed), and that it happens all the time. I feel the sinking feeling often, know it’s because my heart is briefly beating irregularly, and assume it’s normal. After all, your heart isn’t a robot, it’s a living organ doing the best it can. It’s never perfectly regular, and presumably everybody has momentary irregularities, they just don’t notice them. When I got in bed I began wondering how regular irregular heartbeats are. What would the chances be that I have some kind of arrhythmia? I’ve had a checkup not too long ago by a family practice physician who used a stethoscope on my back to listen to my heartbeat, and he didn’t notice anything. Then again, how often does a quick listen with a stethoscope detect subtle or occasional arrhythmias?

I know that whatever problem I have is likely too small to cause any serious troubles, but at the same time I’m becoming obsessed as to determining exactly what my problem is. How many times a day does my heart skip beats? What about nighttime? If only there were some way to record heartbeat data, then I could analyze it and determine the severity of my problem. But wait, data? That would be hours of heartbeat recordings… that means… YES! An idea for a DIY hardware that produces large amounts of data requiring the writing of data analysis software!

Naturally, my thoughts began to overwhelm my reality as soon as Python entered the scene. I wondered how I could use my PC to record my heartbeat, without spending much money on hardware, and only using software I write myself. I pondered this on the way to work this morning, and came up with two possible methods:

Method 1: acoustic recordings. This would be the easiest way to record my heartbeat. I could tape a stethoscope to my chest, insert a small microphone in the earpiece, connect the microphone to my PC, and record sound data for several hours. Theoretically it would work, but it would be highly prone to noise from breathing, and I would have to lay perfectly still to avoid noise caused by movements. The data (trace) would have to be smoothed, processed with a band-pass filter (to eliminate interference), and heartbeats could be calculated. However, this would only give me heart beat time information…

Method 2: electrical recordings. This would be a little more complicated, but generate much more information. I could record the electrical activity of my heart, and the charts would look like the cool electrocardiograms (ECGs) that you see on TV shows. I did a little Googling and found that similar things have been done before with common electrical components. I think I’m going to follow the guide on this page and build the circuit seen below:

Supposedly, the data I can obtain looks something like the image below. I’d attach 3 electrodes to my body (chest, arm, and leg), hook them up to my little circuit, then connect to circuit to my PCs sound card. I’d record the trace (maybe while I sleep?) and analyze it with Python/Numpy/Matplotlib. There are several websites which demonstrate how to build DIY ECG recording devices, but none of these seem to go into depth analyzing the data they obtain. Hopefully I could fill this little niche on the internet. We’ll see what happens. I have my thesis to work on, and a whole bunch of other stuff on my plate right now.

UPDATE: I found an much simpler ECG circuit I can make from parts I already have at my house. It has tons of noise, but maybe I can filter that out somehow?