MS-2385: Predicting and Finding Your Limits!
Technical Article
Predicting and Finding Your
By Jan-Hein Broeders, Healthcare Business
Development Manager, Europe
In the past, vital signs have been monitored mostly on
people with physical complaints or detected diseases, but
today we are interested in monitoring these parameters to
anticipate unexpected situations. Heart rate is often
monitored to measure the condition of a person or to find
our physical limits. This article describes a new integrated
circuit from Analog Devices (ADI) that can help monitor
heart rate. It can also monitor the behavior of the heart to
Figure 1.
provide cardiac feedback and an ECG waveform.
Among all biopotential measurements, ECG and heart rate
are measured the most, as they provide a good indication of
your physical condition. This allows you to exercise safely, as
well as providing feedback about your physical improvement
and success during exercising. Heart rates taken during exercise
encourage you to exert yourself enough without overexerting or
overstressing. Keeping track of your heart rate allows you to
monitor your cardiac output to show whether you are in a
safe operating mode during the entire fitness program or
not. In addition, monitoring heart rate over a longer period
of time gives feedback about long-term progress. If you are
able to exercise at a more intense level without increasing
your heart rate, you’re becoming stronger and more efficient.
Heart rate can be monitored by contact or contactless
measurements. The AD8232 is a new low power integrated
signal conditioning front end, developed for ECG and other
biopotential measurements. It uses two or three electrodes to
obtain the cardiac signals from the human body.
The chip converts the small, noisy signals from the electrodes
into a large, filtered signal that can be easily digitized by a
standalone analog-to-digital converter (ADC) integrated in a
Figure 2 shows a simplified circuit diagram of the AD8232,
which, in principle, can be seen as four individual subfunctions. It contains an instrumentation amplifier, an
amplifier stage that supports low-pass filtering, a right leg
drive (RLD) amplifier, and an on-chip reference buffer.
September 2012 | Page 1 of 3
©2012 Analog Devices, Inc. All rights reserved.
Technical Article
The signals obtained from the body are weak and noisy,
making them sensitive to motion related artifacts. For this
reason, filtering is important to get a useful signal. The input
amplifier provides gain and high-pass filtering simultaneously.
It adds a gain of 100 V/V to the small ECG signals, while
rejecting the electrode offsets, which can be as high as
±300 mV.
The –3 dB cutoff frequency of the first filter is FHP1 −3 dB =
100/(2πR1C1). Due to the gain and feedback architecture of the
amplifier, the filter cutoff is 100 times higher than would
typically be expected. Figure 3 shows a circuit diagram of the
amplifiers and various filter stages for optimum signal transfer.
Figure 2. Simplified Block Diagram of the AD8232
The key function in the signal chain is the instrumentation
amplifier. Its balanced input stage provides a common-mode
rejection ratio of at least 80 dB. The electrodes from the
body are connected directly into the high impedance input
nodes of this amplifier, which features an input impedance
of 100 mΩ. A fixed gain of 100 V/V is integrated in this
stage to amplify the small signals that are applied to the
input. As dc offset at this high gain could easily saturate the
input amplifier, it is coupled with a 2-pole high-pass filter,
which rejects the half-cell potential of the electrodes, in
addition to filtering the motion artifacts.
The second stage consists of an operational amplifier that
adds an additional gain of 11 V/V to the signal, setting the
total gain to 1100 V/V and limiting the maximum differential
input signal to 2.7 mV p-p. However, the device is protected
against overvoltage so input voltages exceeding the maximum
level will distort the output but will not damage the part. The
operational amplifier can be configured as a 2-pole low-pass
filter to remove line noise and other interference. The output
signal represents a clean, amplified version of the ECG signal
as provided at the input of the AD8232. Depending on how
the signal is processed, it can be used as a “heart rate monitor”
device or as a moderate performance ECG system.
The AD8232 is designed for low power, single-supply
operation, so its ground must be lifted to a fixed reference
level (pseudo ground), preferably midscale or the commonmode voltage level of the ADC that is used further down the
signal chain. The integrated reference amplifier buffers this
voltage to set the common reference point inside the AD8232.
Two resistors can be used to set the reference to any preferred
level, or the reference voltage output from the ADC could be
used. If the ADC doesn’t have a built-in reference voltage,
the REF output of the AD8232 could be used to provide the
reference for the ADC. This ratiometric measurement
provides a high level of accuracy without immediate need
for absolute accuracy.
©2012 Analog Devices, Inc. All rights reserved.
Figure 3. Filtering Section in the AD8232
The first stage is followed by an ac-coupled network that
represents the second pole. The cutoff is set as a regular firstorder high-pass filter, FHP2 −3 dB = 1/(2πR2C2). The two
combined high-pass filters yield a total roll-off of –40 dB per
The next filter stage supports a second-order low-pass filter,
using a Sallen Key configuration. This filter is important
to remove motion artifacts and correct the base line. The
suggested cutoff frequency is around 25 Hz. The output of
this amplifier stage is able to swing within 100 mV from +VS
and ground, so nearly the entire dynamic range of the ADC
following the AD8232 can be used, maximizing the system
resolution if the ADC and the AD8232 are powered from the
same supply voltage.
Another amplifier, called right leg drive, is integrated to
provide the connection to the third electrode. The RLD can
be used to condition the common voltage between the
patient/user and the AD8232. This RLD helps to optimize
the performance of the AD8232 but is not a mandatory
function. RLD connection makes the application more
immune to disturbances from outside, like 50 Hz/60 Hz
noise coming from the mains, switch mode power supplies,
and radiation from new LED lights, fluorescent lamps, and
other lighting systems.
September 2012 | Page 2 of 3
Technical Article
The AD8232 monitors when an electrode is disconnected
from the patient or user. A user-selectable option allows
either dc or ac lead-off detection. In dc lead-off detection
mode, the system senses the input potential of the electrodes.
When one of the electrode inputs goes high, the corresponding
LO– or LO+ pin gets flagged to warn the operator or user.
Also, ac lead-off detection mode can be selected in case the
AD8232 is operating with just two electrodes (without the
RLD). The device detects when an electrode is disconnected
by sourcing a small 100 kHz excitation current into the
electrodes. Since only two electrodes are being used, the
AD8232 won’t be able to detect which electrode has been
disconnected from the body. During ac lead-off detection,
only the LO+ pin will be flagged.
This ECG measurement or heart rate front end is developed
for a variety of applications. It can be used for healthcare
applications, as well as for sports and activity applications.
Many healthcare systems require low-lead-count ECG
measurement such as portable ECG monitors, medical heart
rate monitors, and lower end defibrillators and automated
external defibrillators (AED). These require ECG monitoring
to measure heart activity and to synchronize the moment
before providing the defibrillator pulse.
Another very helpful feature on the AD8232 is the fast
restore mode. To support this, the AD8232 automatically
adjusts to a higher filter cutoff when one of the leads shows
an abrupt change at its input. For example, the AD8232
could be built in to the bar of an exercise machine, such as a
cross trainer or a treadmill. When the user takes the bar, this
feature will help the device to recover and provide valid
measurements faster.
Its analog output allows system integrators to select an ADC
and microcontroller of their choice. Analog Devices offers
ARM Cortex™-M3 processors with built-in ADCs ranging
from 12 bits to 24 bits of resolution. One of the recommended
parts is the ADuCRF101. In case a standalone ADC is required,
however, there are other options like the low power 12-bit
AD7170 or 16-bit AD7171, dissipating 125 µA and 135 µA,
respectively. These devices can be operated from the same
supply voltage as the front end to minimize the overall power
dissipation and to extend battery life. Once the application is
operated from the mains, a galvanic isolation barrier is needed
to maintain patient or user safety. The Analog Devices
iCoupler® family provides galvanic isolation including
isolated power up to 5 kV and could be of help to meet those
Once the signal is settled, the filter action automatically
changes to improve the overall noise behavior of the system.
Figure 4 shows the settling with and without fast restore
mode enabled.
A completely different market that is growing rapidly is the
sports and exercising market. Measuring heart rate during
sports activities can help athletes improve exercise routines
and to determine their optimum exercise level. The AD8232
brings the solution there.
In summary, the AD8232 is a very handy, full-featured
building block that can be used for a wide range of cardiac
applications. It comes in a small 4 mm × 4 mm package, is
low power, and priced attractively to support healthcare,
home care, and sports markets.
Figure 4. Settling of the AD8232 with and Without Fast Restore Mode
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