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IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2019 Mar 11. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2019.2904014. [Epub ahead of print]

Robust Fetal Heart Beat Detection via R-peak Intervals Distribution.


Monitoring fetal heart rate during pregnancy is essential to assist clinicians in making more timely decisions. Non-invasive monitoring of fetal heart activities using abdominal ECGs is useful for diagnosis of heart defects. However, the extracted fetal ECGs are usually too weak to be robustly detected. Thus, it is a necessity to enhance fetal R-peak since their peaks may hidden within the signal due to the immaturity of the fetal cardiovascular system. Therefore, to improve the detection of the fetal heartbeat, a novel fetal R-peak enhancement technique was proposed to statistically generate the weighting mask according to the distribution of the neighboring temporal intervals between each pair of peaks. Two set of simulations were designed to validate the reliability of the method: challenges with different levels of (1) noise contamination and (2) R-peak interval changing rate. The simulation results showed that the weighting mask improve the accuracy of the R-peak detection rate by 25% and decrease false alarm rate by 20% with white noise contamination, and ensure high R-peak detection rate (> 80%), especially with mild noise contamination (noise amplitude ratio < 1.5 and noise rate per minute < 25%). For those simulations with continuous R-peak intervals changing, the masking process can still effectively eliminate noise contamination especially when the amplitude of the sinusoidal fetal R-R intervals lower than 50msec. For the real fetus ECGs, detection rate was increasing by 3.498% whereas false alarm rate was decreasing by 3.933%. Next, we implement the fetal R-peak enhancement technique to investigate fractal regulation and multiscale entropy of the real fetal heartbeat intervals. Both scaling exponent (∼0.6 to ∼1 in scale 4-15) and entropy measure (scale 6-10) increase from with gestational ages (22-40 weeks). The results confirmed fractal slope and complexity of fetal heartbeat intervals can reflect the maturation of fetus organism.


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