Review Article

Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing

, Volume 44, Issue 12, pp 1031-1051

First online:

Heart rate variability: a review

  • U. Rajendra AcharyaAffiliated withDepartment of ECE, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Email author 
  • , K. Paul JosephAffiliated withElectrical Engineering, National Institute of Technology Calicut
  • , N. KannathalAffiliated withDepartment of ECE, Ngee Ann Polytechnic
  • , Choo Min LimAffiliated withDepartment of ECE, Ngee Ann Polytechnic
  • , Jasjit S. SuriAffiliated withIdaho’s Biomedical Research InstituteBiomedical Technologies Inc.

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Heart rate variability (HRV) is a reliable reflection of the many physiological factors modulating the normal rhythm of the heart. In fact, they provide a powerful means of observing the interplay between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. It shows that the structure generating the signal is not only simply linear, but also involves nonlinear contributions. Heart rate (HR) is a nonstationary signal; its variation may contain indicators of current disease, or warnings about impending cardiac diseases. The indicators may be present at all times or may occur at random—during certain intervals of the day. It is strenuous and time consuming to study and pinpoint abnormalities in voluminous data collected over several hours. Hence, HR variation analysis (instantaneous HR against time axis) has become a popular noninvasive tool for assessing the activities of the autonomic nervous system. Computer based analytical tools for in-depth study of data over daylong intervals can be very useful in diagnostics. Therefore, the HRV signal parameters, extracted and analyzed using computers, are highly useful in diagnostics. In this paper, we have discussed the various applications of HRV and different linear, frequency domain, wavelet domain, nonlinear techniques used for the analysis of the HRV.


Heart rate variability Autonomic nervous system Poincare plot Surrogate data ANOVA test Phase space plot Correlation dimension Lyapunov exponent Approximate entropy Sample entropy Hurst exponent Wavelet transform Recurrent plot