Characterization of Change and Significance for Clinical Findings in Radiology Reports Through Natural Language Processing

J Digit Imaging. 2017 Jun;30(3):314-322. doi: 10.1007/s10278-016-9931-8.


We built a natural language processing (NLP) method to automatically extract clinical findings in radiology reports and characterize their level of change and significance according to a radiology-specific information model. We utilized a combination of machine learning and rule-based approaches for this purpose. Our method is unique in capturing different features and levels of abstractions at surface, entity, and discourse levels in text analysis. This combination has enabled us to recognize the underlying semantics of radiology report narratives for this task. We evaluated our method on radiology reports from four major healthcare organizations. Our evaluation showed the efficacy of our method in highlighting important changes (accuracy 99.2%, precision 96.3%, recall 93.5%, and F1 score 94.7%) and identifying significant observations (accuracy 75.8%, precision 75.2%, recall 75.7%, and F1 score 75.3%) to characterize radiology reports. This method can help clinicians quickly understand the key observations in radiology reports and facilitate clinical decision support, review prioritization, and disease surveillance.

Keywords: Imaging informatics; Natural language processing; Radiology reports.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning
  • Medical Records*
  • Natural Language Processing*
  • Radiography
  • Radiology*
  • Research Report
  • Semantics