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Research Portfolio


Using large-scale data and artificial intelligence for refractory epilepsy research



grant amount:

£50,000 over 12 months Awarded in 2022

lead investigator:

Dr Owen Pickrell


-Prof Ronan Lyons (Swansea University)
-Dr Arron Lacey (Swansea University)
-Dr Vesna Vuksanović
-Mr Akbari Ashley (Swansea University)
-Prof Robert Powell (Morriston Hospital
-Swansea Bay University Health Board)
-Prof Inder Sawhney (Morriston Hospital
-Swansea Bay University Health Board)
-Prof Phil Smith (University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff)
-Prof Khalid Hamandi (University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board)
-Dr Joseph Anderson (Royal Gwent Hospital, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board)
-Dr Ann Johnston (University Hospital of Wales
-Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Royal Glamorgan Hospital
-Cwm Taf Bro Morgannwg University Health Board)


Swansea University


There is an urgent need to learn more about refractory epilepsy, where people continue to have seizures despite treatment with two or more epilepsy medications. Clinicians need to be able to identify people who are at risk of, and the reasons for, refractory epilepsy as soon as possible to prioritise and improve treatments.

The Study

Dr Pickrell and colleagues will use natural language processing (NLP) to anonymously extract detailed epilepsy information from clinical documents such as epilepsy letters and reports. They have developed a specific NLP system called Extraction of Epilepsy Clinical Text (ExECT). In this pilot study they will use ExECT within a region of the NHS in Wales to automatically extract anonymised, detailed epilepsy information from clinical documents from around 3,000 people with epilepsy. This will “unlock” the wealth of epilepsy information (including epilepsy type, seizure frequency, medication details and investigation results) that is not available in routinely-collected data.

The Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) databank is a world class resource allowing researchers to access a large number of anonymised, linked data sources for the entire Welsh Population. Dr Pickrell’s team will create the SAIL Epilepsy Research Cohort (SERC) by securely linking the anonymised, detailed epilepsy information from ExECT with other anonymised data for the whole of Wales (around 27,000 people with epilepsy). As well as the detailed epilepsy information, SERC will contain information from general practice, hospitals and death certificates. SERC will be available to other researchers within SAIL and will be scalable with other Welsh and UK data.


The research team will use SERC to identify people with refractory epilepsy, comparing their characteristics and outcomes with people with treatment-responsive epilepsy. This pilot study will create the foundations for expanding SERC within Wales and other UK regions creating a world-leading resource for research into refractory epilepsy, as well as other types of epilepsy.