JMIR Med Inform. 2023 Sep 6;11:e48693. doi: 10.2196/48693.
BACKGROUND: Recent advances in natural language processing (NLP) have heightened the interest of the medical community in its application to health care in general, in particular to stroke, a medical emergency of great impact. In this rapidly evolving context, it is necessary to learn and understand the experience already accumulated by the medical and scientific community.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this scoping review was to explore the studies conducted in the last 10 years using NLP to assist the management of stroke emergencies so as to gain insight on the state of the art, its main contexts of application, and the software tools that are used.
METHODS: Data were extracted from Scopus and Medline through PubMed, using the keywords “natural language processing” and “stroke.” Primary research questions were related to the phases, contexts, and types of textual data used in the studies. Secondary research questions were related to the numerical and statistical methods and the software used to process the data. The extracted data were structured in tables and their relative frequencies were calculated. The relationships between categories were analyzed through multiple correspondence analysis.
RESULTS: Twenty-nine papers were included in the review, with the majority being cohort studies of ischemic stroke published in the last 2 years. The majority of papers focused on the use of NLP to assist in the diagnostic phase, followed by the outcome prognosis, using text data from diagnostic reports and in many cases annotations on medical images. The most frequent approach was based on general machine learning techniques applied to the results of relatively simple NLP methods with the support of ontologies and standard vocabularies. Although smaller in number, there has been an increasing body of studies using deep learning techniques on numerical and vectorized representations of the texts obtained with more sophisticated NLP tools.
CONCLUSIONS: Studies focused on NLP applied to stroke show specific trends that can be compared to the more general application of artificial intelligence to stroke. The purpose of using NLP is often to improve processes in a clinical context rather than to assist in the rehabilitation process. The state of the art in NLP is represented by deep learning architectures, among which Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers has been found to be especially widely used in the medical field in general, and for stroke in particular, with an increasing focus on the processing of annotations on medical images.