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2014 IEEE International Symposium on Bioelectronics and Bioinformatics (IEEE ISBB 2014)

A Reconfigurable Overlapping FFT/IFFT Filter for

ECG Signal De-noising

Nannan Zhang, Zedong Nie, Yu Luo, Leilei Du, Xiaohui Wang, and Lei Wang
Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Shenzhen Key Laboratory for Low-cost Healthcare
Shenzhen, China

Abstract—Dynamic Electrocardiograph (ECG) monitoring by muscle tremor are another type of electrical noise in ECG
(known as Holter) plays an important role in the earlier systems. Besides, there is a wide-band noise generated in all
detection and diagnosis of various cardiovascular diseases. ECG stages of the ECG signal processing.
signals obtained from Holter systems normally contain a lot of
noises and artifacts. These noises degrade signal quality, which In Holter systems the noises mentioned above are very
may be critical for routine monitoring and diagnosis. To solve strong. This makes the ECG de-noising task notably
the problem, a reconfigurable overlapping fast Fourier challenging and important. Body sensor networks (BSN) are
transform/ inverse fast Fourier transform (FFT/IFFT) filter for emerging cyber-physical systems, which improve the quality
suppressing the power-line interference and the high-frequency of life. FFT hardware accelerates the processing units [3].
noise is presented in this paper. The filter is based on a 12-lead Processing on-node decreases the amount of communicated
Holter system with a high-performance analogue front-end and data [4]. Based on it, the ECG processing can be done in real
a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) for enhanced digital time and carried out by a low-voltage and low-power mobile
processing. This paper analyzes the performance of the healthcare device (such as a Holter).
reconfigurable overlapping FFT/IFFT filter in ECG de-noising
applications and validate it by real-world emulations. In the literature, several methods were proposed to remove
Furthermore, the de-noising performance of the reconfigurable a single noise component from ECG signals. References [5]-[7]
overlapping FFT filter was evaluated. suggest methods for removing the power-line interference.
References [8]-[9] suggest methods for suppressing the
Keywords—Filter; Reconfigurable; Overlapping FFT; ECG baseline wandering. Each of the algorithms suggested in the
de-noising; FPGA above-mentioned papers can be used to suppress only one
particular noise component. However, in the real world, the
I. INTRODUCTION ECG signals contain different types of noise. Furthermore,
the cut-off frequency of the employed filters is fixed and this
The demand for improving the quality of life and the rising
makes them unsuitable when variable-frequency noises are
healthcare costs lead to new requirements towards the
healthcare services worldwide. There is increasing interest in
home healthcare that allows to shorten hospital stay and to In this study, we introduce a reconfigurable overlapping
reduce the associated costs. This means that there is a shift FFT/IFFT filter for de-noising of ECG signals on the nodes.
from hospital care to home care for some specific tasks, such This filter can suppress power-line interference and high-
as long-term continuous electrocardiograph (ECG) monitoring. frequency artifacts. An analysis of the filter is also presented.
Compared to traditional approaches, the processing of the
ECG signal analysis is the most widely used technique for
ECG signal on the nodes is much more convenient and
non-invasive diagnosis of various cardiovascular diseases.
ECG signals are always mixed with noises whose sources are
not related to the heart and its activity. These noises include,
but are not limited to, power-line interference, baseline II. METHOD AND DESIGN
wandering, high-frequency artifacts, and other biomedical
signals produced by the human body. The most common type A. The hardware system
of disturbance is the power-line interference. The human body In the 12-lead Holter system, we employed the ADS1298
absorbs electromagnetic radiation from power lines and this is analogue front-end chip from TI, which is not yet commonly
associated with noise signals that contain a 50 Hz sinusoid (in used in commercial Holter products. A highly efficient data-
China and Europe) and its harmonics [1]. Human body management software module was designed to allow data
motion causes baseline wandering in the recorded ECG signal. exchange between the ADS1298 and the microprocessor
Its frequency band is much lower than the band of the ECG (STM32L151 from ST Microelectronics). Besides, an FPGA
signal which normally is in the range 0.5-40 Hz in monitoring (Spartan3E from Xilinx) module was utilized which allows to
systems [2]. The electromyography (EMG) signals produced

978-1-4799-2770-8/14/$31.00 ©2014 IEEE

2014 IEEE International Symposium on Bioelectronics and Bioinformatics (IEEE ISBB 2014)

extend the functionality. The complete electronic system was time domain signal are removed and the final signal is passed
powered by a single 1.8 V supply. It is presented in Fig. 1. to the output.

Fig. 3. Block diagram of the signal processing flow.

The hypothesis of Fourier transform is that the signal is

periodic. Using Fourier transform, a periodic signal can be
decomposed into a sum of a set of simple periodic functions -
sines and cosines. However, an ECG signal mixed with noises
is not a perfect periodic signal, i.e. the values of the first and
the last samples in the N-point data block are not the same.
This means that neither the function of the input analog signal
nor its first derivative is continuous. This results in an
aberration in the beginning and at the end of the IFFT series.
There are two methods to solve the problem: to increase the
length of the block and to add a window.
To increase the length of the series allows analyzing of
more frequency components of the signal and reduces the
spectral leakage. Its disadvantage is that it impacts the real-
Fig. 1. The photograph of our Holter.
time data processing.
B. Reconfigurability Windows are used to reduce the undesirable effects
Each ECG processing system needs two filters: a comb related to the frequency domain. The ideal window has a
filter to suppress power-line interference and a band-pass filter narrow main lobe and small sidelobes. The rectangular
to suppress the baseline wandering and the high-frequency window has a very narrow main lobe, but its side lobe roll-off
noise. In this paper, we present a reconfigurable filter that can rate is low. Hanning window, Hamming window and
be configured to work as a comb filter or as a band-pass filter. Blackman window have a high side lobe roll-off rate.
The cut-off frequency was configured by adjusting the pass- However, their main lobes are two times as wide as the
band of the filter. This functionality is easy to implement in rectangular window's main lobe. This leads to low resolution
FPGA and it is illustrated in Fig. 2. By employment of the in the frequency domain. The performance of these windows
reconfigurable cut-off frequency approach, high efficiency can is shown in Table Ⅰ.
be achieved which is especially useful in practice.
Window –3dB Highest Coherent Overlapping
BW (FS/N) side lobe gain correction
level (dB) 50% OL (PCNT)

Rectangular 0.89 –13 1 50

=1.0 1.2 –23 0.64 31.8

Fig. 2. Illustration of the reconfigurable cut-off frequency feature. Hannin =2.0 1.44 –32 0.5 16.7
C. Overlapping FFT/IFFT filter Hamming 1.3 –43 0.54 23.5
Fig. 3 shows the signal processing flow where the
Blackman 1.68 –58 0.42 9
reconfigurable overlapping FFT/IFFT filter is utilized. The
input ECG signals are passed to the ADS1298 chip that The frequency range of the ECG signal in monitoring
amplifies and samples them. Sampled data are transferred by systems is 0.5-40 Hz [2]. Nevertheless, the frequency of
the microprocessor STM32L151 to the FPGA module. A power-line interference is 50 Hz in China, the frequency
block of N-samples of the sampled ECG signal is converted of base-line wandering is approximate 0.05 Hz and the
from the time domain to the frequency domain by the FFT. frequency of high-frequency artifacts is much higher than
The reconfigurable filter is activated to perform frequency 50 Hz. If the frequency of noise is 5.5 FS/N far from of the
domain filtering in order to suppress the noise. The signal is useful signal, we can separate the noise signal with an
then converted from the frequency domain back to the time appropriate rectangular window [10]. FS denotes the sample
domain by N-point IFFT. Finally, the overlapping parts of the frequency, and N is the FFT size.

978-1-4799-2770-8/14/$31.00 ©2014 IEEE

2014 IEEE International Symposium on Bioelectronics and Bioinformatics (IEEE ISBB 2014)

The role of the overlapping parts is to decrease the pass filter. The output signal of the band-pass filter is shown
frequency aliasing that resulted from the lack of periodicity in in Fig. 5c.
the block data and the non-periodic signal in the FFT. Since
the overlapping parts that contain large frequency aliasing are
abandoned, the outcome is satisfying.
N-point FFT is performed for each series, including the
overlapping parts. The step of each series is L, and the length
of the overlapping part is M.
After the frequency conversion in the frequency domain,
N-point IFFT is performed to convert the signal from the
frequency domain to the time domain. Then, overlapping parts
of the signal in the time domain are abandoned, and the blocks
formed from the remaining signals are used to construct the
output signal of the filter. The percentage of overlapping parts
is shown in Table 1. The overlapping FFT/IFFT filter
processing is illustrated in Fig. 4.

Fig. 6. (a) Spectrum of the original ECG signal (b) Spectrum of the ECG
signal from the comb filter (c) Spectrum of the ECG signal from the
band-pass filter.

According to the spectrum shown in Fig. 6a, raw

ECG waveform is strongly affected by power-line noise
and high-frequency artifacts. Therefore, the spectrum of the
original ECG signal is summed with noise components that
have power-line frequency and frequencies of its harmonics as
well as with high-frequency artifacts. Due to the comb filter,
power-line noise components are removed as shown in Fig. 6b.

Fig. 4. Overlapping FFT/IFFT filter processing.

Considering the tradeoff between precision and efficiency,

the following parameters were chosen in the proposed system:
N=1024, sampling frequency 1 kHz, rectangular window,
L=500 and M=250. With these parameters the method
demonstrated high performance and good results.


A. Comb filter

Fig. 7. Amplitude-frequency response curve of the comb filter.

Fig. 7 shows the amplitude-frequency characteristic of the

comb filter. The characteristic is good. The –3 dB bandwidth
of the stop band in each tooth of the comb filter is 4 Hz.
However, the effect of the comb filter is not good enough
since the Signal-to-Noise ratio of the filtered signal is low, but
it is much better than the Signal-to-Noise ratio of the original
signal (Fig. 5a). From Fig. 6b, we can infer that although the
Fig. 5. (a) Original ECG signal (b) ECG signal from the comb filter (c) ECG power-line interference is removed from the original ECG
signal from the band-pass filter. signal, there are still some high-frequency artifacts. In order to
remove these high-frequency artifacts a band-pass filter is
Raw ECG signal (Fig. 5a) is taken from the Holter system
and passed to the input of the comb filter. The signal from the
comb filter output (Fig. 5b) is passed to the input of the band-

978-1-4799-2770-8/14/$31.00 ©2014 IEEE

2014 IEEE International Symposium on Bioelectronics and Bioinformatics (IEEE ISBB 2014)

B. Band-pass filter an analogue front-end (based on the ADS1298 chip), a

In Fig. 6c, high-frequency artifacts are suppressed. The microprocessor (STM32L151) and an FPGA chip as a co-
processed ECG waveform in Fig. 5c is much better than the processor. The ECG signals are amplified and sampled by the
waveform in Fig. 5a. This confirms that power-line noise ADS1298, then the sampled data are processed by the FPGA
and high-frequency artifacts were removed from the raw ECG unit. The reconfigurable overlapping FFT/IFFT filter is used
signal. for removing power-line interference and high-frequency
artifacts. The proposed method is reconfigurable and simple to

This study was financed partially by the Projects of
National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos.
60932001, 51105369 and 61072031), the National 863
Program of China (Grant No. 2010CB732606) and the
'Low-cost Healthcare' Programs of Chinese Academy of

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