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Electronic Interpretation of Chest Radiograph Reports to Detect Central Venous Catheters

  • William E. Trick (a1), Wendy W. Chapman (a2), Mary F. Wisniewski (a3), Brian J. Peterson (a3), Steven L. Solomon (a1) and Robert A. Weinstein (a3) (a4)...

To evaluate whether a natural language processing system, SymText, was comparable to human interpretation of chest radiograph reports for identifying the mention of a central venous catheter (CVC), and whether use of SymText could detect patients who had a CVC.


To identify patients who had a CVC, we performed two surveys of hospitalized patients. Then, we obtained available reports from 104 patients who had a CVC during one of two cross-sectional surveys (ie, case-patients) and 104 randomly selected patients who did not have a CVC (ie, control-patients).


A 600-bed public teaching hospital.


Chest radiograph reports were available from 124 of the 208 participants. Compared with human interpretation, SymText had a sensitivity of 95.8% and a specificity of 98.7%. The use of SymText to identify case- and control-patients resulted in a sensitivity of 43% and a specificity of 98%. Successful application of SymText varied significantly by venous insertion site (eg, a sensitivity of 78% for subclavian and a sensitivity of 3.7% for femoral). Twenty-six percent of the case-patients had a femoral CVC.


Compared with human interpretation, SymText performed well in interpreting whether a report mentioned a CVC. In patient populations with less frequent CVC placement in femoral veins, the sensitivity for CVC detection likely would be higher. Applying a natural language processing system to chest radiograph reports may be a useful adjunct to other data sources to automate detection of patients who had a CVC.

Corresponding author
Division of Infectious Disease/Durand Bldg., 637 S. Wood St., Chicago, IL 60612
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Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology
  • ISSN: 0899-823X
  • EISSN: 1559-6834
  • URL: /core/journals/infection-control-and-hospital-epidemiology
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