The electrocardiogram (ECG) is a widely used, noninvasive test for analyzing arrhythmia. However, the ECG signal is prone to contamination by different kinds of noise. Such noise may cause deformation on the ECG heartbeat waveform, leading to cardiologists’ mislabeling or misinterpreting heartbeats due to varying types of artifacts and interference. To address this problem, some previous studies propose a computerized technique based on machine learning (ML) to distinguish between normal and abnormal heartbeats. Unfortunately, ML works on a handcrafted, feature-based approach and lacks feature representation. To overcome such drawbacks, deep learning (DL) is proposed in the pre-training and fine-tuning phases to produce an automated feature representation for multi-class classification of arrhythmia conditions. In the pre-training phase, stacked denoising autoencoders (DAEs) and autoencoders (AEs) are used for feature learning; in the fine-tuning phase, deep neural networks (DNNs) are implemented as a classifier. To the best of our knowledge, this research is the first to implement stacked autoencoders by using DAEs and AEs for feature learning in DL. Physionet’s well-known MIT-BIH Arrhythmia Database, as well as the MIT-BIH Noise Stress Test Database (NSTDB). Only four records are used from the NSTDB dataset: 118 24 dB, 118 −6 dB, 119 24 dB, and 119 −6 dB, with two levels of signal-to-noise ratio (SNRs) at 24 dB and −6 dB. In the validation process, six models are compared to select the best DL model. For all fine-tuned hyperparameters, the best model of ECG heartbeat classification achieves an accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, precision, and F1-score of 99.34%, 93.83%, 99.57%, 89.81%, and 91.44%, respectively. As the results demonstrate, the proposed DL model can extract high-level features not only from the training data but also from unseen data. Such a model has good application prospects in clinical practice.
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