Evaluation of negation and uncertainty detection and its impact on precision and recall in search

J Digit Imaging. 2011 Apr;24(2):234-42. doi: 10.1007/s10278-009-9250-4. Epub 2009 Nov 10.


Radiology reports contain information that can be mined using a search engine for teaching, research, and quality assurance purposes. Current search engines look for exact matches to the search term, but they do not differentiate between reports in which the search term appears in a positive context (i.e., being present) from those in which the search term appears in the context of negation and uncertainty. We describe RadReportMiner, a context-aware search engine, and compare its retrieval performance with a generic search engine, Google Desktop. We created a corpus of 464 radiology reports which described at least one of five findings (appendicitis, hydronephrosis, fracture, optic neuritis, and pneumonia). Each report was classified by a radiologist as positive (finding described to be present) or negative (finding described to be absent or uncertain). The same reports were then classified by RadReportMiner and Google Desktop. RadReportMiner achieved a higher precision (81%), compared with Google Desktop (27%; p < 0.0001). RadReportMiner had a lower recall (72%) compared with Google Desktop (87%; p = 0.006). We conclude that adding negation and uncertainty identification to a word-based radiology report search engine improves the precision of search results over a search engine that does not take this information into account. Our approach may be useful to adopt into current report retrieval systems to help radiologists to more accurately search for radiology reports.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Data Mining / methods*
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Humans
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Radiology Information Systems*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Search Engine / methods*
  • Uncertainty*