Using the Unified Medical Language System to Expand the Operative Stress Score – First Use Case

Katherine M. Reitz, Daniel E. Hall, Myrick C. Shinall, Paula K. Shireman, Jonathan C. Silverstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) maps relationships between and within >100 biomedical vocabularies, including Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes, creating a powerful knowledge resource which can accelerate clinical research. Methods: We used synonymy and concepts relating hierarchical structure of CPT codes within the UMLS, (1) guiding surgical experts in expanding the Operative Stress Score (OSS) from 565 originally rated CPT codes to additional, 1,853 related procedures; (2) establishing validity of the association between the added OSS ratings and 30-day outcomes in VASQIP (2015-2018). Results: The UMLS Metathesaurus and Semantic Network was converted into an interactive graph database ( delineating ontology relatedness. From this UMLS-graph, the CPT hierarchy was queried obtaining all paths from each code to the hierarchical apex. Of 1,853 added ratings, 43% and 76% were siblings and cousins of original OSS CPT codes. Of 857,577 VASQIP cases (mean age, 64±11years; 91% male; 75% white), 786,122 (92%) and 71,455 (8%) were rated in the original and added OSS. Compared to original, added OSS cases included more females (14% versus 9%) and frail patients (25% versus 19%) undergoing high stress procedures (11% versus 8%; all P <.001). Postoperative mortality consistently increased with OSS. Very low stress procedures had <0.5% (original, 0.4% [95%CI, 0.4%–0.5%] versus added, 0.9% [95%CI, 0.6%–1.2%]) and very high 3.8% (original, 3.5% [95%CI, 3.0%–4.0%] versus added, 5.8% [95%CI, 4.6–7.3%]) mortality rates. Conclusions: The synonymy and concepts relating biomedical data within the UMLS can be abstracted and efficiently used to expand the utility of existing clinical research tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-561
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Computational biology
  • Current procedural terminology
  • Frailty
  • medical informatics
  • medical information computing
  • ontologies
  • surgical procedures
  • Unified medical language system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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