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The complexity of clinically-normal sinus-rhythm ECGs is decreased in equine athletes with a diagnosis of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.

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Equine athletes have a pattern of exercise which is analogous to human athletes and the cardiovascular risks in both species are similar. Both species have a propensity for atrial fibrillation (AF), which is challenging to detect by ECG analysis when in paroxysmal form. We hypothesised that the proarrhythmic background present between fibrillation episodes in paroxysmal AF (PAF) might be detectable by complexity analysis of apparently normal sinus-rhythm ECGs. In this retrospective study ECG recordings were obtained during routine clinical work from 82 healthy horses and from 10 horses with a diagnosis of PAF. Artefact-free 60-second strips of normal sinus-rhythm ECGs were converted to binary strings using threshold crossing, beat detection and a novel feature detection parsing algorithm. Complexity of the resulting binary strings was calculated using Lempel-Ziv ('76 & '78) and Titchener complexity estimators. Dependence of Lempel-Ziv '76 and Titchener T-complexity on the heart rate in ECG strips obtained at low heart rates (25-60 bpm) and processed by the feature detection method was found to be significantly different in control animals and those diagnosed with PAF. This allows identification of horses with PAF from sinus-rhythm ECGs with high accuracy.



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Scientific reports

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Petplan Charitable Trust (S17-447-485)