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A preliminary investigation of a wavelet packet based algorithm for the compression of single lead ECG is presented. The algorithm combines the efficiency and flexibility of wavelet packet expansions with the methodology of the Karhunen-Loeve transform (KLT). For selected records from the MIT-BIH arrhythmia database, an average data rate of 184.7 bits per second, corresponding to a compression ratio of 21.4:1, is achieved. When compared with the KLT applied to the same data, the wavelet packet algorithm generates significantly lower data rates with less than one-third the computational effort.