Influence of skin type and wavelength on light wave reflectance

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Fallow, Bennett Ames

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Heart rate monitoring (HRM) is an essential tool for monitoring physical activity and as a diagnostic tool in the clinical setting. The ability to monitor heart rate gives users and clinicians vital information about the current condition of the cardiovascular system before, during, and after exercise. However, HRM requires a telemetric chest strap, and comfort, transmission and fit can become problems with the chest strap. New technology using photoplethysmography (PPG) has emerged recently to provide the possibility of HRM without a telemetric chest strap during exercise. The aim of this study was to determine if a new device could detect heart rate over a broad range of skin types (I-V), and whether what wavelength would be most suitable for detecting the signals. A light emitting diode (LED) based PPG system was used to determine heart rate by change in pulsatile blood flow on 22 apparently healthy individuals (11 male and 11 female, 20-59 years old) of varying skin type. Skin type was classified according to a questionnaire in combination with digital photographs with a skin type chart. Each subject was exposed to four different wavelengths (470 nm, 520 nm, 630 nm, and 880 nm) and multiple trials were conducted on each wavelength. Heart rate detection was represented by modulation of the incident light wave and normalized by saturation into a pulsatile waveform represented as modulation average. The 520nm wavelength classified as visible green light provided a significantly greater (p<0.001) ability to detect heart rate. Increasing levels of melanin, or darker skin type (Type V) showed decreased modulation however this trend was not significant (p<0.067). There was no significant interaction between the wavelength of light and the skin type. In conclusion, a PPG based device can detect heart rate across skin types and use of a green light wavelength provides an even greater resolution.



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