Detection of clinically important colorectal surgical site infection using Bayesian network

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background Despite extensive efforts to monitor and prevent surgical site infections (SSIs), real-time surveillance of clinical practice has been sparse and expensive or nonexistent. However, natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (i.e., Bayesian network analysis) may provide the methodology necessary to approach this issue in a new way. We investigated the ability to identify SSIs after colorectal surgery (CRS) through an automated detection system using a Bayesian network. Materials and methods Patients who underwent CRS from 2010 to 2012 and were captured in our institutional American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS-NSQIP) comprised our cohort. A Bayesian network was applied to detect SSIs using risk factors from ACS-NSQIP data and keywords extracted from clinical notes by NLP. Two surgeons provided expertise informing the Bayesian network to identify clinically meaningful SSIs (CM-SSIs) occurring within 30 d after surgery. Results We used data from 751 CRS cases experiencing 67 (8.9%) SSIs and 78 (10.4%) CM-SSIs. Our Bayesian network detected ACS-NSQIP-captured SSIs with a receiver operating characteristic area under the curve of 0.827, but this value increased to 0.892 when using surgeon-identified CM-SSIs. Conclusions A Bayesian network coupled with NLP has the potential to be used in real-time SSI surveillance. Moreover, surgeons identified CM-SSI not captured under current NSQIP definitions. Future efforts to expand CM-SSI identification may lead to improved and potentially automated approaches to survey for postoperative SSI in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-173
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Bayesian network
  • Colorectal surgery
  • Natural language processing
  • Surgical site infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Detection of clinically important colorectal surgical site infection using Bayesian network'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this