Contact-free measurement of cardiac pulse based on the analysis of thermal imagery

Marc Garbey, Nanfei Sun, Arcangelo Merla, Ioannis Pavlidis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

320 Scopus citations


We have developed a novel method to measure human cardiac pulse at a distance. It is based on the information contained in the thermal signal emitted from major superficial vessels. This signal is acquired through a highly sensitive thermal imaging system. Temperature on the vessel is modulated by pulsative blood flow. To compute the frequency of modulation (pulse), we extract a line-based region along the vessel. Then, we apply fast Fourier transform (FFT) to individual points along this line of interest to capitalize on the pulse's thermal propagation effect. Finally, we use an adaptive estimation function on the average FFT outcome to quantify the pulse. We have carried out experiments on a data set of 34 subjects and compared the pulse computed from our thermal signal analysis method to concomitant ground-truth measurements obtained through a standard contact sensor (piezo-electric transducer). The performance of the new method ranges from 88.52% to 90.33% depending on the clarity of the vessel's thermal imprint. To the best of our knowledge, it is the first time that cardiac pulse has been measured several feet away from a subject with passive means.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1418-1426
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Adaptive filtering
  • Cardiac pulse
  • Fast Fourier transform (FFT)
  • Medical imaging
  • Thermal imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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