Objective: Non-invasive fetal electrocardiography has the potential to provide vital information for evaluating the health status of the fetus. However, the low signal-to-noise ratio of the fetal electrocardiogram (ECG) impedes the applicability of the method in clinical practice. Quality improvement of the fetal ECG is of great importance for providing accurate information to enable support in medical decision-making. In this paper we propose the use of artificial intelligence for the task of one-channel fetal ECG enhancement as a post-processing step after maternal ECG suppression. Approach: We propose a deep fully convolutional encoder–decoder framework, learning end-to-end mappings from noise-contaminated fetal ECGs to clean ones. Symmetric skip-layer connections are used between corresponding convolutional and transposed convolutional layers to help recover the signal details. Main results: Experiments on synthetic data show an average improvement of 7.5 dB in the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for input SNRs in the range of −15 to 15 dB. Application of the method with real signals and subsequent ECG interval analysis demonstrates a root mean square error of 9.9 and 14 ms for the PR and QT intervals, respectively, when compared with simultaneous scalp measurements. The proposed network can achieve substantial noise removal on both synthetic and real data. In cases of highly noise-contaminated signals some morphological features might be unreliably reconstructed. Significance: The presented method has the advantage of preserving individual variations in pulse shape and beat-to-beat intervals. Moreover, no prior knowledge on the power spectra of the noise or the pulse locations is required.
Fotiadou, E., Konopczyński, T., Hesser, J., & Vullings, R. (2020). End-to-end trained encoder–decoder convolutional neural network for fetal electrocardiogram signal denoising. Physiological Measurement, 41(1), . https://doi.org/10.1088/1361-6579/ab69b9