Analysis of atrial rhythm is important in the treatment and management of patients with atrial fibrillation. Several algorithms exist for extracting the atrial signal from the electrocardiogram (ECG) in atrial fibrillation, but there are few reports on how well these techniques are able to recover the atrial signal. We assessed and compared three algorithms for extracting the atria] signal from the 12-lead ECG. The 12-lead ECGs of 30 patients in atrial fibrillation were analyzed. Atrial activity was extracted by three algorithms, Spatiotemporal QRST cancellation (STC), principal component analysis (PCA), and independent component analysis (ICA). The amplitude and frequency characteristics of the extracted atrial signals were compared between algorithms and against reference data. Mean (standard deviation) amplitude of QRST segments of VI was 0.99 (0.54) mV, compared to 0.18 (0.11) mV (STC), 0.19 (0.13) mV (PCA), and 0.29 (0.22) mV (ICA). Hence, for all algorithms there were significant reductions in the amplitude of the ventricular activity compared with that in VI. Reference atrial signal amplitude in VI was 0.18 (0.11) mV, compared to 0.17 (0.10) mV (STC), 0.12 (0.09) mV (PCA), and 0.18 (0.13) mV (ICA) in the extracted atrial signals. PCA tended to attenuate the atrial signal in these segments. There were no significant differences for any of the algorithms when comparing the amplitude of the reference atrial signal with that of the extracted atrial signals in segments in which ventricular activity had been removed. There were no significant differences between algorithms in the frequency characteristics of the extracted atrial signals. There were discrepancies in amplitude and frequency characteristics of the atria] signal in only a few cases resulting from notable residual ventricular activity for PCA and ICA algorithms.