, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 45-58
Date: 03 Nov 2006

Optical Vibrocardiography: A Novel Tool for the Optical Monitoring of Cardiac Activity

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We present an optical non-contact method for heart beat monitoring, based on the measurement of chest wall movements induced by the pumping action of the heart, which is eligible as a surrogate of electrocardiogram (ECG) in assessing both cardiac rate and heart rate variability (HRV). The method is based on the optical recording of the movements of the chest wall by means of laser Doppler interferometry.

To this aim, the ECG signal and the velocity of vibration of the chest wall, named optical vibrocardiography (VCG), were simultaneously recorded on 10 subjects. The time series built from the sequences of consecutive R waves (on ECG) and vibrocardiographic (VV) intervals were compared in terms of heart rate (HR). To evaluate the ability of VCG signals as quantitative marker of the autonomic activity, HRV descriptors were also calculated on both ECG and VCG time series. HR and HRV indices obtained from the proposed method agreed with the rate derived from ECG recordings (mean percent difference <3.1%). Our comparison concludes that optical VCG provides a reliable assessment of HR and HRV analysis, with no statistical differences in term of gender are present. Optical VCG appears promising as non-contact method to monitor the cardiac activity under specific conditions, e.g., in magnetic resonance environment, or to reduce exposure risks to workers subjected to hazardous conditions. The technique may be used also to monitor subjects, e.g., severely burned, for which contact with the skin needs to be minimized.