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In Computers in biology and medicine

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained arrhythmia worldwide and imposes a substantial economic burden on the public healthcare system due to its high morbidity and mortality. Early detection of AF is crucial in providing timely treatment and preventing complications such as stroke and other thromboembolism. For AF diagnosis, the 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) has been established as the gold standard. However, it requires the clinical experiences of cardiologists and may be vulnerable to inter-observer variability. Although automated AF diagnostic techniques based on deep neural networks (DNN) have been proposed, most studies were conducted using small-scale datasets, resulting in the over-fitting problem. Furthermore, they have not fully exploited ECG components such as P-wave, QRS-complex, and T-wave contrary to the approach adopted by cardiologists who interpret ECG by considering its components. To overcome these limitations, this study presents the component-aware transformer (CAT), which segments the ECG waveform into each component, vectorizes them with length and types information into one vector, and used it as the input of the transformer. We conducted extensive experiments to evaluate the CAT using a large-scale dataset called Shaoxing Hospital Zhejiang University School of Medicine database (AF: 1,780 cases, non-AF: 8,866 cases). The quantitative evaluations demonstrate that the CAT outperforms the conventional deep learning techniques on both single- and 12-lead ECG signals. Moreover, the CAT trained on single-lead ECG is comparable to that of a 12-lead analysis, while conventional methods degraded significantly in performance. Consequently, the CAT is applicable to various single-channel signals such as airway pressure, photoplethysmogram, and blood pressure.

Yang Min-Uk, Lee Dae-In, Park Seung


Atrial fibrillation, Component-aware transformer, Deep learning, ECG tokenization, Electrocardiogram