Cardiac arrhythmia is one of the most important cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), causing million deaths every year. Moreover it is difficult to diagnose because it occurs intermittently and as such requires the analysis of large amount of data, collected during the daily life of patients. An important tool for CVD diagnosis is the analysis of electrocardiogram (ECG), because of its non-invasive nature and simplicity of acquisition. In this work we propose a classification algorithm for arrhythmia based on recurrent neural networks (RNNs) that operate directly on ECG data, exploring the effectiveness and efficiency of several variations of the general RNN, in particular using different types of layers implementing the network memory. We use the MIT-BIH arrhythmia database and the evaluation protocol recommended by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). After designing and testing the effectiveness of the different networks, we then test its porting to an embedded platform, namely the STM32 microcontroller architecture from ST, using a specific framework to port a pre-built RNN to the embedded hardware, convert it to optimized code for the platform and evaluate its performance in terms of resource usage. Both in binary and multiclass classification, the basic RNN model outperforms the other architectures in terms of memory storage (∼117 KB), number of parameters (∼5 k) and inference time (∼150 ms), while the RNN LSTM-based achieved the best accuracy (∼90%).
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