Averaging methods for extracting representative waveforms from motor unit action potential trains

Armando Malanda, Javier Navallas, Javier Rodriguez-Falces, Ignacio Rodriguez-Carreño, Luis Gila
Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 2015, 25 (4): 581-95
In the context of quantitative electromyography (EMG), it is of major interest to obtain a waveform that faithfully represents the set of potentials that constitute a motor unit action potential (MUAP) train. From this waveform, various parameters can be determined in order to characterize the MUAP for diagnostic analysis. The aim of this work was to conduct a thorough, in-depth review, evaluation and comparison of state-of-the-art methods for composing waveforms representative of MUAP trains. We evaluated nine averaging methods: Ensemble (EA), Median (MA), Weighted (WA), Five-closest (FCA), MultiMUP (MMA), Split-sweep median (SSMA), Sorted (SA), Trimmed (TA) and Robust (RA) in terms of three general-purpose signal processing figures of merit (SPMF) and seven clinically-used MUAP waveform parameters (MWP). The convergence rate of the methods was assessed as the number of potentials per MUAP train (NPM) required to reach a level of performance that was not significantly improved by increasing this number. Test material comprised 78 MUAP trains obtained from the tibialis anterioris of seven healthy subjects. Error measurements related to all SPMF and MWP parameters except MUAP amplitude descended asymptotically with increasing NPM for all methods. MUAP amplitude showed a consistent bias (around 4% for EA and SA and 1-2% for the rest). MA, TA and SSMA had the lowest SPMF and MWP error figures. Therefore, these methods most accurately preserve and represent MUAP physiological information of utility in clinical medical practice. The other methods, particularly WA, performed noticeably worse. Convergence rate was similar for all methods, with NPM values averaged among the nine methods, which ranged from 10 to 40, depending on the waveform parameter evaluated.

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