When your heart skips a beat


Radar developed by FAU team measures heart rate variability

A team of researchers at FAU has developed a method of reliably detecting and diagnosing heart sounds using radar. In a new study, the researchers have now shown that radar can be used to reliably measure heart rate variability (HRV). In future, radar could be used to monitor HRV over the long term to detect pathological changes and prevent severe disease.

The human heart does not beat regularly like a metronome, but varies according to our emotions: stress, pain and depression can all affect heart rate variability (HRV). Chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease also have an impact on HRV. In order to be able to record HRV by radar, the team from FAU and Hamburg University of Technology combined radar technology with methods from machine learning. The team confirmed the accuracy of their method during clinical experiments at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. During what is known as the cold pressor test, participants held their hand in icy water for a certain amount of time, triggering a pain reaction and an abrupt change in HRV. The team recorded this change using both the radar and an ECG. After comparing results, there was found to be a high correlation between the two different methods. The procedure has a range of potential uses, both in clinical settings, for example in order to detect a potential case of sepsis or sudden cardiac arrest at an early stage, and in a home environment for long-term HRV monitoring.

Further information

Technical contact

Kilin Shi
Institute of Electronics Engineering

Medical contact

Prof. Dr. Christoph Ostgathe
Professorship of Palliative Medicine