Smartwatch-derived heart rate variability: a head-to-head comparison with the gold standard in cardiovascular disease

Author: Fabian Theurl1, Michael Schreinlechner1, Nikolay Sappler1, Michael Toifl1, Theresa Dolejsi1, Florian Hofer1, Celine Massmann1, Christian Steinbring1, Silvia Komarek2,3, Kurt Mölgg2,3, Benjamin Dejakum2,3, Christian Böhme2, Rudolf Kirchmair1, Sebastian Reinstadler1, Axel Bauer1
1 Department of Internal Medicine III-Cardiology and Angiology, Medical University of Innsbruck, Anichstr. 35, Innsbruck 6020, Austria.
2 Department of Neurology, Medical University of Innsbruck, Anichstr. 35, Innsbruck 6020, Austria.
3 Research Centre on Vascular Ageing and Stroke (VASCage), Anichstr. 5a, Innsbruck 6020, Austria.
Conference/Journal: Eur Heart J Digit Health
Date published: 2023 Mar 23
Other: Volume ID: 4 , Issue ID: 3 , Pages: 155-164 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1093/ehjdh/ztad022. , Word Count: 244

We aimed to investigate the concordance between heart rate variability (HRV) derived from the photoplethysmographic (PPG) signal of a commercially available smartwatch compared with the gold-standard high-resolution electrocardiogram (ECG)-derived HRV in patients with cardiovascular disease.

Methods and results:
We prospectively enrolled 104 survivors of acute ST-elevation myocardial infarction, 129 patients after an ischaemic stroke, and 30 controls. All subjects underwent simultaneous recording of a smartwatch (Garmin vivoactive 4; Garmin Ltd, Olathe, KS, USA)-derived PPG signal and a high-resolution (1000 Hz) ECG for 30 min under standardized conditions. HRV measures in time and frequency domain, non-linear measures, as well as deceleration capacity (DC) were calculated according to previously published technologies from both signals. Lin's concordance correlation coefficient (ρc) between smartwatch-derived and ECG-based HRV markers was used as a measure of diagnostic accuracy. A very high concordance within the whole study cohort was observed for the mean heart rate (ρc = 0.9998), standard deviation of the averages of normal-to-normal (NN) intervals in all 5min segments (SDANN; ρc = 0.9617), and very low frequency power (VLF power; ρc = 0.9613). In contrast, detrended fluctuation analysis (DF-α1; ρc = 0.5919) and the square mean root of the sum of squares of adjacent NN-interval differences (rMSSD; ρc = 0.6617) showed only moderate concordance.

Smartwatch-derived HRV provides a practical alternative with excellent accuracy compared with ECG-based HRV for global markers and those characterizing lower frequency components. However, caution is warranted with HRV markers that predominantly assess short-term variability.

Keywords: Deceleration capacity; Heart rate variability; Smartwatch; Wearables.

PMID: 37265873 PMCID: PMC10232241 DOI: 10.1093/ehjdh/ztad022