Complex patterns of abnormal heartbeats Academic Article uri icon


  • Individuals having frequent abnormal heartbeats interspersed with normal heartbeats may be at an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. However, mechanistic understanding of such cardiac arrhythmias is limited. We present a visual and qualitative method to display statistical properties of abnormal heartbeats. We introduce dynamical ``heartprints'' which reveal characteristic patterns in long clinical records encompassing $\ensuremath{\approx}{10}^{5}$ heartbeats and may provide information about underlying mechanisms. We test if these dynamics can be reproduced by model simulations in which abnormal heartbeats are generated (i) randomly, (ii) at a fixed time interval following a preceding normal heartbeat, or (iii) by an independent oscillator that may or may not interact with the normal heartbeat. We compare the results of these three models and test their limitations to comprehensively simulate the statistical features of selected clinical records. This work introduces methods that can be used to test mathematical models of arrhythmogenesis and to develop a new understanding of underlying electrophysiologic mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmia.

publication date

  • January 1, 2002