Skip to Main Content
A new method for diagnosing multiple diseases in large medical decision support systems based on causal probabilistic networks is proposed. The method is based on characteristics of the diagnostic process that we believe to be present in many diagnostic tasks, both inside and outside medicine. The diagnosis must often be made under uncertainty, choosing between diagnoses that each have small prior probabilities, but not so small that the possibility of two or more simultaneous diseases can be ignored. Often a symptom can be caused by several diseases and the presence of several diseases tend to aggravate the symptoms. For diagnostic problems that share these characteristic, we have proposed a method that operates in a number of phases: in the first phase only single diseases are considered and this helps to focus the attention on a smaller number of plausible diseases. In the second phase, pairs of diseases are considered, which make it possible to narrow down the field of plausible diagnoses further. In the following phases, larger subsets of diseases are considered. The method was applied to the diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders, using previous experience with the so-called MUNIN system as a starting point. The results showed that the method gave large reductions in computation time without compromising the computational accuracy in any substantial way. It is concluded that the method enables practical inference in large medical expert systems based on causal probabilistic networks.
Date of Publication: May 2001