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Mayo Clin Proc. 2011 Dec;86(12):1146-53. doi: 10.4065/mcp.2011.0305. Epub 2011 Oct 13.

Herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia surveillance using structured electronic data.

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Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



To develop electronic algorithms for rapid, automated surveillance for herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) using codified electronic health data.


We attempted to identify every case of herpes zoster and PHN arising between January 1 and December 31, 2008, within the electronic medical record of a 560,000-patient ambulatory practice using an array of diagnosis codes; intervals between herpes zoster encounters; and prescriptions for analgesics, anticonvulsants, and antidepressants. We assessed the sensitivity and positive predictive value (PPV) of each screening criterion by medical record review and then integrated multiple criteria into combination algorithms to optimize sensitivity and PPV. We applied the optimized algorithms to the practice's historical data spanning January 1, 1996, to December 31, 2008, to assess for changes in the annual incidence of PHN.


The International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, code 053 detected herpes zoster with 98% sensitivity and 93% PPV. A combination algorithm including diagnosis codes, visit intervals, and prescriptions detected PHN with 86% sensitivity and 78% PPV. Between 1996 and 2008, the age- and sex-adjusted annual incidence of PHN rose from 0.18 to 0.47 cases per 1000 patients, and the proportion of herpes zoster patients progressing to PHN rose from 5.4% to 17.6%.


Novel algorithms incorporating multiple streams of electronic health data can reasonably detect herpes zoster and PHN. These algorithms could facilitate meaningful public health surveillance using electronic health data. The incidence of PHN may be increasing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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