What Do Social Postings Say About Post-Operative Emotional Health?

When seeking support for an upcoming surgery or to connect with others in the post-operative period, patients often reach out on social media networks with an announcement in hopes of receiving positive sentiments and emotional support from friends. Language used in Twitter, a similar social media platform, has also been employed as a tool for screening teenagers at risk of committing suicide. Similarly, De Choudhury et al. successfully used NLP techniques to ‘mark’ certain words and phrases used by patients with known Major Depressive Disorder in the content of Twitter posts to predict episodes of depression. However, there are no available studies that have tracked the Twitter or Facebook accounts of known patients before or after an operation, for the purposes of predicting complications or otherwise, nor any that have followed known surgical patients to track the long-term course of symptoms. It is well established that a pre-operative diagnosis of anxiety or depression places patients at an increased risk of post-operative adverse events and non-routine discharge following major spine surgery. Also, more severe pre-operative depression has been linked to less improvement in disability following spinal revision surgery.

We studied patients’ sentiments before and after a spine surgery to see whether their negative/positive sentiments have increased/decreased following a surgery. We are also planning to classify patients’ emotion after surgery based on their social media posts.

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