Machine learning analysis of heart rate variability to detect delayed cerebral ischemia in subarachnoid hemorrhage


Approximately 30% of patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH) develop delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI). DCI is associated with increased mortality and persistent neurological deficits. This study aimed to analyze heart rate variability (HRV) data from patients with aSAH using machine learning to evaluate whether specific patterns could be found in patients developing DCI.

Material & Methods

This is an extended, in-depth analysis of all HRV data from a previous study wherein HRV data were collected prospectively from a cohort of 64 patients with aSAH admitted to Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden, from 2015 to 2016. The method used for analyzing HRV is based on several data processing steps combined with the random forest supervised machine learning algorithm.


HRV data were available in 55 patients, but since data quality was significantly low in 19 patients, these were excluded. Twelve patients developed DCI. The machine learning process identified 71% of all DCI cases. However, the results also demonstrated a tendency to identify DCI in non-DCI patients, resulting in a specificity of 57%.


These data suggest that machine learning applied to HRV data might help identify patients with DCI in the future; however, whereas the sensitivity in the present study was acceptable, the specificity was low. Possible confounders such as severity of illness and therapy may have affected the result. Future studies should focus on developing a robust method for detecting DCI using real-time HRV data and explore the limits of this technology in terms of its reliability and accuracy.

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