This paper illustrates the use of combined neural network model to guide model selection for classification of electrocardiogram (ECG) beats. The ECG signals were decomposed into time-frequency representations using discrete wavelet transform and statistical features were calculated to depict their distribution. The first level networks were implemented for ECG beats classification using the statistical features as inputs. To improve diagnostic accuracy, the second level networks were trained using the outputs of the first level networks as input data. Four types of ECG beats (normal beat, congestive heart failure beat, ventricular tachyarrhythmia beat, atrial fibrillation beat) obtained from the Physiobank database were classified with the accuracy of 96.94% by the combined neural network. The combined neural network model achieved accuracy rates which were higher than that of the stand-alone neural network model. (C) 2004 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of Pattern Recognition Society.