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Transfer Learning for ECG Classification

  • Remote monitoring devices, which can be worn or implanted, have enabled a more effective healthcare for patients with periodic heart arrhythmia due to their ability to constantly monitor heart activity. However, these devices record considerable amounts of electrocardiogram (ECG) data that needs to be interpreted by physicians. Therefore, there is a growing need to develop reliable methods for automatic ECG interpretation to assist the physicians. Here, we use deep convolutional neural networks (CNN) to classify raw ECG recordings. However, training CNNs for ECG classification often requires a large number of annotated samples, which are expensive to acquire. In this work, we tackle this problem by using transfer learning. First, we pretrain CNNs on the largest public data set of continuous raw ECG signals. Next, we finetune the networks on a small data set for classification of Atrial Fibrillation, which is the most common heart arrhythmia. We show that pretraining improves the performance of CNNs on the target task by up to 6.57%, effectively reducing the number of annotations required to achieve the same performance as CNNs that are not pretrained. We investigate both supervised as well as unsupervised pretraining approaches, which we believe will increase in relevance, since they do not rely on the expensive ECG annotations. The code is available on GitHub at https://github.com/kweimann/ecg-transfer-learning.

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Author:K. Weimann, Tim ConradORCiD
Document Type:Article
Parent Title (English):Scientific Reports
Date of first Publication:2021/03/04
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