Blood pressure is an indicator of a cardiovascular functioning and could provide early symptoms of cardiovascular system impairment. Blood pressure measurement using catheterization technique is considered the gold standard for blood pressure measurement . However, due its invasive nature and complexity, non-invasive techniques of blood pressure estimation such as auscultation, oscillometry, and volume clamping have gained wide popularity . While these non-invasive cuff based methodologies provide a good estimate of blood pressure, they are limited by their inability to provide a continuous estimate of blood pressure [1–2]. Continuous blood pressure estimate is critical for monitoring cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and heart failure.
Pulse transit time (PTT) is a time taken by a pulse wave to travel between a proximal and distal arterial site . The speed at which pulse wave travels in the artery has been found to be proportional to blood pressure [1, 3]. A rise in blood pressure would cause blood vessels to increase in diameter resulting in a stiffer arterial wall and shorter PTT [1–3]. To avail such relationship with blood pressure, PTT has been extensively used as a marker of arterial elasticity and a non-invasive surrogate for arterial blood pressure estimation.
Typically, a combination of electrocardiogram (ECG) and photoplethysmogram (PPG) or arterial blood pressure (ABP) signal is used for the purpose of blood pressure estimation , where the proximal and distal timing of PTT (also referred as pulse arrival time, PAT) is marked by R peak of ECG and a foot/peak of a PPG, respectively. In the literature, it has been shown that PAT derived using ECG-PPG combination infers an inaccurate estimate of blood pressure due to the inclusion of isovolumetric contraction period [1–3, 4].
Seismocardiogram (SCG) is a recording of chest acceleration due to heart movement, from which the opening and closing of the aortic valve can be obtained . There is a distinct point on the dorso-ventral SCG signal that marks the opening of the aortic valve (annotated as AO). In the literature, AO has been proposed for timing the onset of the proximal pulse of the wave [6–8]. A combination of AO as a proximal pulse and PPG as a distal pulse has been used to derive pulse transit time and is shown to be correlated with blood pressure . Ballistocardiogram (BCG) which is a measure of recoil forces of a human body in response to pumping of blood in blood vessels has also been explored as an alternative to ECG for timing proximal pulse [5, 9].
Use of SCG or BCG for timing the proximal point of a pulse can overcome the limitation of ECG-based PTT computation [6–7, 9]. However, a limitation of current blood pressure estimation systems is the requirement of two morphologically different signals, one for annotating the proximal (ECG, SCG, BCG) and other for annotating the distal (PPG, ABP) timing of a pulse wave. In the current research, we introduce a methodology to derive PTT from seismocardiograms alone. Two accelerometers were used for such purpose, one was placed on the xiphoid process of the sternum (marks proximal timing) and the other one was placed on the external carotid artery (marks distal timing). PTT was derived as a time taken by a pulse wave to travel between AO of both the xiphoidal and carotid SCG.