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Identifying encephalopathy in patients admitted to an intensive care unit: going beyond structured information using natural language processing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Helena Ariño, Soo Kyung Bae, Jaya Chaturvedi, Tao Wang, Angus Roberts

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in digital health
Accepted/In press9 Jan 2023

King's Authors


Background: Encephalopathy is a severe co-morbid condition in critically ill patients that includes different clinical constellations of neurological symptoms. However, even for the most recognised form, delirium, this medical condition is rarely recorded in structured fields of electronic health records precluding large and unbiased retrospective studies. We aimed to identify patients with encephalopathy using a machine learning-based approach over clinical notes in electronic health records. Methods: We used a list of ICD-9 codes and clinical concepts related to encephalopathy to define a cohort of patients from the MIMIC-III dataset. Clinical notes were annotated with MedCAT and vectorized with a bag-of-word approach or word embedding using clinical concepts normalised to standard nomenclatures as features. Machine learning algorithms (support vector machines and random forest) trained with clinical notes from patients who had a diagnosis of encephalopathy (defined by ICD-9 codes) were used to classify patients with clinical concepts related to encephalopathy in their clinical notes but without any ICD-9 relevant code. A random selection of 50 patients were reviewed by a clinical expert for model validation. Results: Among 46,520 different patients, 7.5% had encephalopathy related ICD-9 codes in all their admissions (group 1, definite encephalopathy), 45% clinical concepts related to encephalopathy only in their clinical notes (group 2, possible encephalopathy) and 38% did not have encephalopathy related concepts neither in structured nor in clinical notes (group 3, non-encephalopathy). Length of stay, mortality rate or number of co-morbid conditions were higher in groups 1 and 2 compared to group 3. The best model to classify patients from group 2 as patients with encephalopathy (SVM using embeddings) had F1 of 85% and predicted 31% patients from group 2 as having encephalopathy with a probability > 90%. Validation on
new cases found a precision ranging from 92-98% depending on the criteria considered.
Conclusions: Natural language processing techniques can leverage relevant clinical
information that might help to identify patients with under-recognised clinical disorders such
as encephalopathy. In the MIMIC dataset, this approach identifies with high probability
thousands of patients that did not have a formal diagnosis in the structured information of the

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