Introduction As many as 3% of computed tomography (CT) scans detect pancreatic cysts. Because pancreatic cysts are incidental, ubiquitous and poorly understood, follow-up is often not performed. Pancreatic cysts may have a significant malignant potential and their identification represents a 'window of opportunity' for the early detection of pancreatic cancer. The purpose of this study was to implement an automated Natural Language Processing (NLP)-based pancreatic cyst identification system. Method A multidisciplinary team was assembled. NLP-based identification algorithms were developed based on key words commonly used by physicians to describe pancreatic cysts and programmed for automated search of electronic medical records. A pilot study was conducted prospectively in a single institution. Results From March to September 2013, 566 233 reports belonging to 50 669 patients were analysed. The mean number of patients reported with a pancreatic cyst was 88/month (range 78-98). The mean sensitivity and specificity were 99.9% and 98.8%, respectively. Conclusion NLP is an effective tool to automatically identify patients with pancreatic cysts based on electronic medical records (EMR). This highly accurate system can help capture patients 'at-risk' of pancreatic cancer in a registry.
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