Ontology and medical diagnosis

Bertaud-Gounot Valerie, Duvauferrier Regis, Burgun Anita

Ontology and associated generic tools are appropriate for knowledge modeling and reasoning, but most of the time, disease definitions in existing description logic (DL) ontology are not sufficient to classify patient’s characteristics under a particular disease because they do not formalize operational definitions of diseases (association of signs and symptoms = diagnostic criteria). The main objective of this study is to propose an ontological representation which takes into account the diagnostic criteria on which specific patient conditions may be classified under a specific disease. This method needs as a prerequisite a clear list of necessary and sufficient diagnostic criteria as defined for lots of diseases by learned societies. It does not include probability/uncertainty which Web Ontology Language (OWL 2.0) cannot handle. We illustrate it with spondyloarthritis (SpA). Ontology has been designed in Protege 4.1 OWL-DL2.0. Several kinds of criteria were formalized: (1) mandatory criteria, (2) picking two criteria among several diagnostic criteria, (3) numeric criteria. Thirty real patient cases were successfully classified with the reasoner. This study shows that it is possible to represent operational definitions of diseases with OWL and successfully classify real patient cases. Representing diagnostic criteria as descriptive knowledge (instead of rules in Semantic Web Rule Language or Prolog) allows us to take advantage of tools already available for OWL. While we focused on Assessment of SpondyloArthritis international Society SpA criteria, we believe that many of the representation issues addressed here are relevant to using OWL-DL for operational definition of other diseases in ontology.

2012. Inform. Health Soc. Care; 37(2):51-61

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