The Topology of Medical Thinking

There are certainly more productive things I could be doing right now, seeing as I am taking Step 3 of the US Medical Liscensing Exam this coming week (a 2 day 8,000,000 question exam). But as my parents can attest, under times of academic stress, I frequently regress to more childish endeavors, such as drawing with colored pencils.

Still fascinated with uncovering the “standard of care” for diagnosing PEs, I decided to start with the well known Well’s algorithm for evaluating risk, ordering tests and interpreting them. My goal was to create a process map ala the London Tube Map, to make a visually impacting impression on anyone trying to decide which test to order next. The difficulty is, that the order and meaning of the same test can vary depending on the results of previous tests or on the patient’s condition.

I made three different diagrams last night before discovering that when trying to view the process as a network topology, it becomes a three dimentional process! No wonder it’s so confusing. My goal is to make each lab test a singe node (e.g. D-dimer, VQ scan, CT angiogram, Venous duplex/follow up venous duplex (should they be the same node?).

Ultimately, if I can create noded diagrams for each algorithm, I could overlay them on one another to see where they differ and why. This whole process of trying to diagram scientific thinking somehow reminds me of a different type of mindful diagramming…check out GPS Drawing. And by removing the scientific thought from the process focusing only on layout and balance, the following pasttimes seem eerily related as well: Rock on, Rock on and House Gymnastics.

If anyone can help me figure out why my brain works this way, I would appreciate it.

Addendum: See also the four color graph theory (aka the four color map theory)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *