Learning to Automatically Generate Accurate ECG Captions
Proceedings of The 5th International Conference on Medical Imaging with Deep Learning, PMLR 172:86-102, 2022.
The electrocardiogram (ECG) is an affordable, non-invasive and quick method to gain essential information about the electrical activity of the heart. Interpreting ECGs is a time-consuming process even for experienced cardiologists, which motivates the current usage of rule-based methods in clinical practice to automatically describe ECGs. However, in comparison with descriptions created by experts, ECG-descriptions generated by such rule-based methods show considerable limitations. Inspired by image captioning methods, we instead propose a data-driven approach for ECG description generation. We introduce a label-guided Transformer model, and show that it is possible to automatically generate relevant and readable ECG descriptions with a data-driven captioning model. We incorporate prior ECG labels into our model design, and show this improves the overall quality of generated descriptions. We find that training these models on free-text annotations of ECGs - instead of the clinically-used computer generated ECG descriptions - greatly improves performance. Moreover, we perform a human expert evaluation study of our best system, which shows that our data-driven approach improves upon existing rule-based methods.