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Understanding Medical Tests with Wolfram|Alpha

August 5, 2009 —
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A trip to the doctor’s office can sometimes leave patients with more questions than answers, specifically if their doctor has requested they undergo medical tests. Wolfram|Alpha is a helpful reference for understanding what the tests measure and how to interpret the results. Wolfram|Alpha allows you to query information on a specific medical test or a panel of tests, compare tests and results for patients with specific characteristics, compute your estimated risk for heart disease, and find the diagnosis corresponding to an ICD-9 code. Wolfram|Alpha can take into account specific patient characteristics like gender, age, smoker, non-smoker, pregnant, diabetic, obese, and underweight. Wolfram|Alpha can give you a snapshot of available data that might help you understand how your results compare to others’. (Wolfram|Alpha does not give any advice, medical or otherwise.)

First we will demonstrate how you can use Wolfram|Alpha to learn more about a specific type of test your doctor has ordered. By entering the name of the test into Wolfram|Alpha, such as “CBC”, we can learn what the test measures. In this case, the test measures the number of cells commonly found in a blood sample, such as red blood cells and platelets.

Referencing CBC test results data in Wolfram|Alpha

In this example, we ask Wolfram|Alpha to return statistics for a patient with specific characteristics. When we query “cholesterol 35-year-old female non-smoker” in Wolfram|Alpha, it returns the official name of the medical test, a reference distribution chart containing information (such as the median and mean results), and the test codes. A 35-year-old female who does not smoke can easily compare the official test results from her doctor with the data below.

Referencing cholesterol test data of a 35-year-old female non-smoker

Wolfram|Alpha has computed a comparison chart for the red blood cell count of a 20–30-year-old female smoker and a 35–45-year-old female smoker:
Comparing red blood cell counts for female smokers ages 20-30-years-old and 30-40-years-old

Using the built-in heart disease risk calculator in Wolfram|Alpha, you can get more insight into your risk of coronary heart disease and the potential that you will have a heart-attack within the next 10 years. This calculator is based on a formula by the Framingham Heart Study. To complete the assessment, enter your age, gender, diabetic status, and smoking status along with results from common cholesterol (LDL and HDL count) and blood pressure tests (systolic and diabolic blood pressure). The results indicate the likelihood that you will develop heart disease in the next 10 years, the impact your cholesterol and blood pressure levels have on this risk, and a chart showing your cumulative risk as your age increases.

Built-in heart disease risk calculator in Wolfram|Alpha

These are just a few examples of how you can utilize medical test data within Wolfram|Alpha. You can click here to explore health and medicine further.

1 Comment

In the first example above the input is ‘CBC’ but it is interpreted as ‘CBC without differrential’. Why the differrence as there is no alternative ‘CBC with differential’? briangilbert.

Posted by Brian Gilbert August 6, 2009 at 1:15 am