Discovering body site and severity modifiers in clinical texts

Dmitriy Dligach, Steven Bethard, Lee Becker, Timothy Miller, Guergana K. Savova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective: To research computational methods for discovering body site and severity modifiers in clinical texts. Methods: We cast the task of discovering body site and severity modifiers as a relation extraction problem in the context of a supervised machine learning framework. We utilize rich linguistic features to represent the pairs of relation arguments and delegate the decision about the nature of the relationship between them to a support vector machine model. We evaluate our models using two corpora that annotate body site and severity modifiers. We also compare the model performance to a number of rule-based baselines. We conduct crossdomain portability experiments. In addition, we carry out feature ablation experiments to determine the contribution of various feature groups. Finally, we perform error analysis and report the sources of errors. Results: The performance of our method for discovering body site modifiers achieves F1 of 0.740-0.908 and our method for discovering severity modifiers achieves F1 of 0.905-0.929. Discussion: Results indicate that both methods perform well on both in-domain and out-domain data, approaching the performance of human annotators. The most salient features are token and named entity features, although syntactic dependency features also contribute to the overall performance. The dominant sources of errors are infrequent patterns in the data and inability of the system to discern deeper semantic structures. Conclusions: We investigated computational methods for discovering body site and severity modifiers in clinical texts. Our best system is released open source as part of the clinical Text Analysis and Knowledge Extraction System (cTAKES).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-454
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Medical Informatics Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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