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4th Student Conference on Research and Development (SCOReD 2006), Shah Alam, Selangor, MALAYSIA, 27-28 June, 2006

Development of PC-Based ECG Monitoring

Yin Fen Low, Izadora Binti Mustaffa, Norhashimah Binti Mohd Saad, Abdul Hamid Bin Hamidon
Faculty of Electronics and Computer Engineering
Kolej Universiti Teknikal Kebangsaan Malaysia
Locked Bag 1200, Ayer Keroh, 75450, Malacca, Malaysia.

bodily variables like temperature, blood-sugar content,

breathing patterns, weights and lipid levels. This project aims
to improve the quality of life of people in terms of
timesaving, cost reduction and medical service quality.

Abstract - The research is to design and develop a PC-Based

ECG monitoring system for telemedicine. The system should be
capable of acquiring and storing patients ECG signal and later
transfer it to a remote site. This project is concentrating on the
data acquisition system, which consists of both hardware and
software development. The hardware development includes
sensor, amplifier and filter circuits, while the software
development includes a Graphical User Interface to display
patients ECG waveform and to calculate patients heartbeat
rate. The developed system is able to acquire and display
patients ECG signal on the PC through a data acquisition card.
The data collected will then used for further analysis and
transmitted to a remote terminal through the telemedicine
network. This project is a step towards reaching that ultimate
goal of the complete fusion of healthcare, the Internet, and the
home. Although this study attempts to track patient cardiac
data, similar modified techniques could be used to monitor
other bodily variables such as temperature, blood-sugar
content, breathing patterns, weights and lipid levels.


ECG data acquisition begins with the use of
electrodes that attached to body skin. Three electrodes are
used as sensors to detect the heart signals from a human
body. Two electrodes are placed each on the left and right
wrist while the third electrode is placed on the ankle of the
leg as ground [2]. The ECG signal that acquired is in the
range of 1 to 5 mV. Due to the weak voltage level, the signal
is fed into an amplifier circuit to be amplified to a desirable
voltage level. Output from amplifier is then fed into a
bandpass filter circuit and a High Q notch filter. The purpose
of this filter is to filter out the very low and high frequency
noise components of the signals and the 60-Hz power line
interference. The desirable analog output from the filter is
then sent to PC through a 16-bit DAQ card. In order to
display the waveform, a Graphical User Interface is
developed using LabView programming language [3].
Besides displaying the waveform, the GUI is also able to
calculate the heartbeat rate from the captured signal. Fig. 1
shows the proposed ECG data acquisition system.

Index terms ECG, Monitoring system, Pc-Based, GUI.

The incidence of heart and vascular diseases nowadays are
much higher than before. The patient is becoming younger.
Heart disease is the worlds greatest killer, thus any
improvement in diagnosis and treatment tools are welcomed
by the medical community. One of the most useful diagnostic
tools for heart patients is a PC-based ECG monitoring
system, which operates by measuring the tiny electrical
signals emitted by the heart through electrodes and put into
the computer for display and analysis [1].
Patient ECG monitoring provides essential information
of person heart in order to detect various heart related
diseases. However, most commercial ECG monitoring
system has complicated functions and very high costs. Thus,
these devices are usually available only in hospitals.
Therefore, a more user-friendly, attractive, simple and low
cost system is highly desired.
The main objective of this project is to develop low cost
ECG acquisition system. This system will be able to acquire
patients ECG signal and transfer it to remote terminal
through a telemedicine network. This project is a step
towards the complete fusion of healthcare, the Internet, and
the home. This study attempts to track patient cardiac data.
However, similar techniques could be used to monitor other

1-4244-0527-0/06/$20.00 2006 IEEE

1: Block diagram of proposed ECG data acquisition system

A. ECG signal
An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a graphic tracing of the
electric current generated by the heart muscle during a
heartbeat. It provides information on the condition and
performance of the heart. Electrocardiograms are made by
applying electrodes to various parts of the body to lead off
the tiny heart current to the recording instrument.
The normal electrocardiogram shows typical upward and
downward deflections that reflect the alternate contraction of


4th Student Conference on Research and Development (SCOReD 2006), Shah Alam, Selangor, MALAYSIA, 27-28 June, 2006

the atria (the two upper chambers) and of the ventricles (the
two lower chambers) of the heart [2]. The first upward
deflection (ref Fig. 2 of ECG waveform), P, is due to atrial
contraction and is known as the atrial complex. The other
deflections, Q, R, S, and T, are all due to the action of the
ventricles and are known as the ventricular complexes. Any
deviation from the norm in a particular electrocardiogram is
indicative of a possible heart disorder.
A typical cardiac waveform of a normal heartbeat as it
appears on electro-cardiograph charts is shown in Fig. 2. The
voltages produced represent pressures exerted by the heart
muscles in one pumping cycle. It is one of the life signs
monitored in many medical and intensive care procedures.

D. Filter
A normal ECG signal from the human falls in the
frequency range of 0.05 - 100 Hz [2]. Other frequencies
beyond this range are regarded as noise. On the other hand,
frequencies at about less than 1 Hz are considered as very
low frequency noise. Considering the above problems, a
bandpass filter is built to filter off the high and very low
frequency components. Besides, in order to remove the 60Hz power line interference, a High Q notch filter is used.
E. DAQ card
For project purpose, we have chosen to use a product by
National Instruments named Low-cost E-Series PCI-6034E
data acquisition board. It offers 16-bit resolution capability at
a reasonable cost. Included with the board is the NI-DAQ
software. This software is specifically designed to quickly
install devices and begin data measurement. This easy-to-use
software integrates the full functionality of DAQ hardware to
LabVIEW, LabWindows/CVI, and Measurement Studio for
Visual Basic. These windows based software are used to
display the digitized data in time-series format, as would be
obtained on an oscilloscope.

Fig. 2: A typical ECG signal

B. Electrodes
Three electrodes that are used as sensors for ECG
monitoring are of the standardized gel electrodes called the
ECG conductive adhesive electrodes. This gel electrode is of
circular foam type with a kind of gel covering the conductive
metal at the center. Each of these electrodes can only be used
once and disposable after use. The disposable electrode
provides good contact with the skin and produces minimal
noise generated by movement. The gel is a conductive
substance that enhances the signal transfer between the
electrode contact and the body surface. Special lead wires are
used to establish connection between the electrodes and the
amplifier circuit. The lead wires are made short to reduce
noise current due to wire inductance. The placement of
electrodes at the correct positions is very important as
different positions on the body could give different signal
strength. Placement of electrodes on the body is based on
Eithovens Triangle [1].

F. GUI design
A graphical user interface for ECG monitoring has been
designed using LabView and it is shown in Fig. 8. This GUI,
called ECG Monitor has few functions. It is designed to
allow user to monitor the signal waveform. In addition, it can
also save the digitized ECG data into a text file and then
retrieve the data from the text file and display the waveforms.
Besides that, it provides visual alerts when heartbeat rate
below or exceed predetermined value. The ECG Monitor is
divided into seven parts.

C. Amplifier
A normal ECG signal falls in the range of 1 5mV.
Amplifier is required to increase this weak signal into an
acceptable level for practical purposes. The amplification
system consists of two-stage amplification where the first
stage is the instrumentation amplifier and the second stage is
the operational amplifier.
The gain is computed using this equation:
49.4 K!
For accuracy, RG was chosen 5.49K , 1% tolerance, so
the gain achieves approximately 10. The second stage
amplifier is designed to produce a high gain of 100. Thus, the
overall output voltage from this amplification circuit is kept
to a range of 1 5V.

1-4244-0527-0/06/$20.00 2006 IEEE

Fig. 8: Suggested GUI for ECG monitoring

F1. Graphical interface display
Located at the top right program window in a
rectangular, the graphical interface displays the discrete
signals obtained from the data acquisition system in
waveform similar to an analog ECG signal.
F2. Selection panel
F2.1. Device selection
This control allow user to specify the device number that is


4th Student Conference on Research and Development (SCOReD 2006), Shah Alam, Selangor, MALAYSIA, 27-28 June, 2006

F2.2. Channel Selection

This control allow user to specify the channel that is being

F7. Status bar

A status bar is to display the status of the current program
operation whether it is saving data, loading data or

F2.3. No. of sample

This control allow user to specify the amount of samples that
is going to read.

G. Heartbeat Rate Calculation

A normal ECG waveform pattern consists of a pulse that
reaches the peak of the graph. Calculations of the heartbeat
rate are done by a designed LabView sub-vi by providing a
threshold level to detect only the systolic peaks. It will record
the sample numbers at which the peaks occur. Knowing the
sampling rate, the pulse rate can be determined.

F2.4. Sampling rate

This control allow user to specify the sampling rate (in Hz)
for analog to digital conversion.
F3. Heartbeat rate display
The Heartbeat rate (bpm) display displays the frequency
value of the signal in number of heartbeats per minute.


A. Hardware specifications
As discussed at section above, the hardware
specifications have been determined as follow:
Sensor: Blue sensor
Amplifier: Instrumentation amplifier gain = 10
Operational amplifier gain = 100
Total amplification factor = 10 x 100 = 1000

F4. Threshold setting knob

This feature is to use to provide a threshold level to detect
only the systolic peaks. A LabView sub-VI used to detect the
pulses will records the sample numbers at which they occur.
Knowing the sampling rate, the pulse rate can be determined.
This measured pulse rate is shown by a digital read-out
(Hearbeat rate (bpm)) in the GUI.
F5. Control panel
F5.1 Start button
This button is used to enable or start the ECG signal display
on the graphical interface display. Once the button is clicked,
the status bar will display the message ECG monitoring is in

Filter: High pass filter cutoff at 0.03Hz

Low pass filter cutoff at 80Hz
a 60Hz notch filter

B.Hardware results
The ECG amplifier was first prototyped on a breadboard
to make sure the circuit worked. The output was recorded and
shown in the graph below.

F5.2 Save button

This buttons function is to save ECG data into a text file.
This text file contains input data in the range of 0 to since
the DAQ card is 16-bit. Once the button is clicked, the
message data is in transfer will appear on the status bar.
The transferring of data will continue until the stop button are
pressed or until there is no input data is detected.

Fig. 3: The amplified ECG signal

F5.3 Load button

This button is to retrieve the ECG data in the saved text file
and use it to plot the ECG waveform on the graphical
interface display. When the button is clicked, a window will
appear and request the user to select the file to be loaded for
display. After selecting, the program will plot the graph until
the stop button is pressed. The message Loading in
progress will appear on the status bar.

As seen in the Fig. 3, the waveform is contains a lot of

noise. These noises are most probably due to the electrical
activity of the active muscle and white noise. Each division
in the graph is 1V. So, the magnitude of the waveform is
about 1.5V, which is in the expected range (1-5V). The input
signal and then passed through filtering circuit to filter out
the noise. The final output of the ECG waveform (after
filtering) is shown in Fig. 4.

F5.4 Stop button

This button is use to stop or terminate all activities that is
going on. These activities include monitoring, loading,
saving and calculating heartbeat rare.
Fig. 4: The output signal from the analog circuit

F6. Alarms
These alarms are to alert user when the heartbeat rate below
or exceed pre-determined safe values.

1-4244-0527-0/06/$20.00 2006 IEEE


4th Student Conference on Research and Development (SCOReD 2006), Shah Alam, Selangor, MALAYSIA, 27-28 June, 2006

It was observed that the peak R-wave is clearly shown.

The 60Hz power line interference in the ECG is greatly
reduced through the High Q notch filter.

developed. The system is capable of acquiring, storing

patients ECG signal and displaying on the PC. The data is
ready for further analysis or transmit to remote site via
telemedicine network. Individuals either inside or outside
hospital can use it for monitoring heart signal. Hopefully this
project will give a new dimension to whom very sensitive
and carrying about self-healthy.

C. GUI output
The ECG Monitor could display ECG signal in real time
mode as expected. These data can be saved into text file and
retrieved from text file to be displayed in waveform signal as
shown in Fig. 5. Notice that the real time and retrieved data
signal waveforms still contain some noises.


Fig. 5. Signal waveform generated on the ECG Monitor

D. Discussions
The major problem for this project is the presence of the
noise in the captured ECG signal. Noise is defined as
unwanted signals introduces into the desired signal. The ECG
signal is very sensitive to noise that come from various
sources. Electrodes are identified as high potential noise
source. This is due to the fact that electrode is assembled as a
sensitive device to capture tiny electrical signal from the
human body. Noises from surrounding are easily captured by
the electrode, thus introducing unwanted signal into the ECG
Contact between skin surface and electrodes could
produce some resistance or impedance level. It is therefore
important for the electrodes to be placed on the flat normal
skin surface and with no body hair or scar. This is because
the presence of body hairs or others substances such as dead
tissues could induce additional resistance and noise to the
ECG signal.
Resistance due to contact between skin and electrodes
can be reduced by proper placement of the electrodes on the
skin surface. Besides this, abrasive skin prepping gel can be
applied on the skin surface to improve the conductivity
between the electrodes and skin.
Body movement causes the contact between the
electrodes and the lead wires to slip and loose, hence
introduces noise into the original signal. This phenomenon of
the noise induction due to body movement is also known as
motion artefact. Therefore the person must be relaxed and
rest quietly to minimize body movement and heavy
respiration when conducting ECG monitoring.
Generally, a low cost PC-Based patient monitoring
system for telemedicine application has been designed and

1-4244-0527-0/06/$20.00 2006 IEEE


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