Epilepsy and seizure ontology: towards an epilepsy informatics infrastructure for clinical research and patient care

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2014 Jan-Feb;21(1):82-9. doi: 10.1136/amiajnl-2013-001696. Epub 2013 May 18.


Objective: Epilepsy encompasses an extensive array of clinical and research subdomains, many of which emphasize multi-modal physiological measurements such as electroencephalography and neuroimaging. The integration of structured, unstructured, and signal data into a coherent structure for patient care as well as clinical research requires an effective informatics infrastructure that is underpinned by a formal domain ontology.

Methods: We have developed an epilepsy and seizure ontology (EpSO) using a four-dimensional epilepsy classification system that integrates the latest International League Against Epilepsy terminology recommendations and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) common data elements. It imports concepts from existing ontologies, including the Neural ElectroMagnetic Ontologies, and uses formal concept analysis to create a taxonomy of epilepsy syndromes based on their seizure semiology and anatomical location.

Results: EpSO is used in a suite of informatics tools for (a) patient data entry, (b) epilepsy focused clinical free text processing, and (c) patient cohort identification as part of the multi-center NINDS-funded study on sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. EpSO is available for download at http://prism.case.edu/prism/index.php/EpilepsyOntology.

Discussion: An epilepsy ontology consortium is being created for community-driven extension, review, and adoption of EpSO. We are in the process of submitting EpSO to the BioPortal repository.

Conclusions: EpSO plays a critical role in informatics tools for epilepsy patient care and multi-center clinical research.

Keywords: Clinical Data Integration; Clinical Free Text Processing; Epilepsy and Seizure Ontology; Patient Data Capture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Death, Sudden / etiology
  • Electrodiagnosis
  • Epilepsy / classification*
  • Epilepsy / complications
  • Humans
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized
  • Seizures / classification*
  • Vocabulary, Controlled*