Pulse transit time measured by photoplethysmography improves the accuracy of heart rate as a surrogate measure of cardiac output, stroke volume and oxygen uptake in response to graded exercise

L. Pollonini, N. S. Padhye, R. Re, A. Torricelli, R. J. Simpson, C. C. Dacso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Heart rate (HR) is a valuable and widespread measure for physical training programs, although its description of conditioning is limited to the cardiac response to exercise. More comprehensive measures of exercise adaptation include cardiac output (Q), stroke volume (SV) and oxygen uptake (VO2), but these physiological parameters can be measured only with cumbersome equipment installed in clinical settings. In this work, we explore the ability of pulse transit time (PTT) to represent a valuable pairing with HR for indirectly estimating Q, SV and VO2 non-invasively. PTT was measured as the time interval between the peak of the electrocardiographic (ECG) R-wave and the onset of the photoplethysmography (PPG) waveform at the periphery (i.e. fingertip) with a portable sensor. Fifteen healthy young subjects underwent a graded incremental cycling protocol after which HR and PTT were correlated with Q, SV and VO2 using linear mixed models. The addition of PTT significantly improved the modeling of Q, SV and VO2 at the individual level (R12 = 0.419 for SV, 0.548 for Q, and 0.771 for VO2) compared to predictive models based solely on HR (R12 = 0.379 for SV, 0.503 for Q, and 0.745 for VO2). While challenges in sensitivity and artifact rejection exist, combining PTT with HR holds potential for development of novel wearable sensors that provide exercise assessment largely superior to HR monitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number911
Pages (from-to)911-924
Number of pages14
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • cardiac output
  • oxygen uptake
  • photoplethysmography
  • pulse transit time
  • stroke volume

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Medicine(all)

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