Recent Advances in Fetal Electrocardiography

Yoshitaka Kimura1, 3, *, Naoaki Sato2, Junichi Sugawara3, Clarissa Velayo3, Teturo Hoshiai3, Satoru Nagase3, Takuya Ito4, Yukari Onuma1, Asami Katsumata1, Kunihiro Okamura3, 5, Nobuo Yaegashi3
1 Institute for International Advanced Interdisciplinary Research, Tohoku University Medical School, Sendai, Japan
2 Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Tohoku University Hospital, Sendai, Japan
3 Graduate School of Medicine, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan
4 Innovation of New Biomedical Engineering Center, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan
5 KKR Tohoku Kousai Hospital, Sendai, Japan

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© 2012 Kimura et al.;

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Correspondence: * Address correspondence to this author at the Institute for International Advanced Interdisciplinary Research, Tohoku University, Seiryo-cho 2-1, Sendai, 980-8575, Japan.Tel: +81-22-717-7575; Fax: +81-22-717-7575; E-mail:


Since the first observations of Cremer in 1906, fetal electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements via the maternal abdominal wall have remained a formidable challenge for clinical technicians and engineers in the cutting-edge field of information theory. Previous obstacles in extracting fetal ECG still complicate their acquisition at the present. These include three main difficulties for non-invasive measurement of fetal ECG: first, the low signal to noise ratio; second, the lack of a standard lead system for fetal ECG on the maternal abdomen; and third, the factor of fetal movement or non-stationarity during recording. A new extraction system based on blind source separation with reference signals (BSSR) was utilized and our detection rates, both off-line (91%) and on-line (60%), in pregnancies of 20 to 41 weeks of gestation have shown a marked improvement from earlier attempts. With this development, we discuss the potentials and limitations of this new system.

Keywords: Accuracy of fetal ECG, accuracy of traditional Doppler cardiotocogram, advanced fetal electrocardiography, fetal arrhythmia, fetal ECG waveform.