Unsupervised Topic Modeling in a Large Free Text Radiology Report Repository

J Digit Imaging. 2016 Feb;29(1):59-62. doi: 10.1007/s10278-015-9823-3.


Radiology report narrative contains a large amount of information about the patient's health and the radiologist's interpretation of medical findings. Most of this critical information is entered in free text format, even when structured radiology report templates are used. The radiology report narrative varies in use of terminology and language among different radiologists and organizations. The free text format and the subtlety and variations of natural language hinder the extraction of reusable information from radiology reports for decision support, quality improvement, and biomedical research. Therefore, as the first step to organize and extract the information content in a large multi-institutional free text radiology report repository, we have designed and developed an unsupervised machine learning approach to capture the main concepts in a radiology report repository and partition the reports based on their main foci. In this approach, radiology reports are modeled in a vector space and compared to each other through a cosine similarity measure. This similarity is used to cluster radiology reports and identify the repository's underlying topics. We applied our approach on a repository of 1,899,482 radiology reports from three major healthcare organizations. Our method identified 19 major radiology report topics in the repository and clustered the reports accordingly to these topics. Our results are verified by a domain expert radiologist and successfully explain the repository's primary topics and extract the corresponding reports. The results of our system provide a target-based corpus and framework for information extraction and retrieval systems for radiology reports.

Keywords: Clustering; Natural language processing; Radiology report narrative; Text mining; Topic modeling.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Natural Language Processing*
  • Radiology Information Systems*