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Development, Validation, and Evaluation of a Simple Machine Learning Model to Predict Cirrhosis Mortality.

Kanwal F, Taylor TJ, Kramer JR, Cao Y, Smith D, Gifford AL, El-Serag HB, Naik AD, Asch SM. Development, Validation, and Evaluation of a Simple Machine Learning Model to Predict Cirrhosis Mortality. JAMA Network Open. 2020 Nov 2; 3(11):e2023780.

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Importance: Machine-learning algorithms offer better predictive accuracy than traditional prognostic models but are too complex and opaque for clinical use. Objective: To compare different machine learning methods in predicting overall mortality in cirrhosis and to use machine learning to select easily scored clinical variables for a novel cirrhosis prognostic model. Design, Setting, and Participants: This prognostic study used a retrospective cohort of adult patients with cirrhosis or its complications seen in 130 hospitals and affiliated ambulatory clinics in the integrated, national Veterans Affairs health care system from October 1, 2011, to September 30, 2015. Patients were followed up through December 31, 2018. Data were analyzed from October 1, 2017, to May 31, 2020. Exposures: Potential predictors included demographic characteristics; liver disease etiology, severity, and complications; use of health care resources; comorbid conditions; and comprehensive laboratory and medication data. Patients were randomly selected for model development (66.7%) and validation (33.3%). Three different statistical and machine learning methods were evaluated: gradient descent boosting, logistic regression with least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) regularization, and logistic regression with LASSO constrained to select no more than 10 predictors (partial pathway model). Predictor inclusion and model performance were evaluated in a 5-fold cross-validation. Last, the predictors identified in the most parsimonious (the partial path) model were refit using maximum-likelihood estimation (Cirrhosis Mortality Model [CiMM]), and its predictive performance was compared with that of the widely used Model for End Stage Liver Disease with sodium (MELD-Na) score. Main Outcomes and Measures: All-cause mortality. Results: Of the 107 939 patients with cirrhosis (mean [SD] age, 62.7 [9.6] years; 96.6% male; 66.3% white, 18.4% African American), the annual mortality rate ranged from 8.8% to 15.3%. In total, 32.7% of patients died within 3 years, and 46.2% died within 5 years after the index date. Models predicting 1-year mortality had good discrimination for the gradient descent boosting (area under the receiver operating characteristics curve [AUC], 0.81; 95% CI, 0.80-0.82), logistic regression with LASSO regularization (AUC, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.77-0.79), and the partial path logistic model (AUC, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.76-0.78). All models showed good calibration. The final CiMM model with machine learning-derived clinical variables offered significantly better discrimination than the MELD-Na score, with AUCs of 0.78 (95% CI, 0.77-0.79) vs 0.67 (95% CI, 0.66-0.68) for 1-year mortality, respectively (DeLong z = 17.00; P < .001). Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, simple machine learning techniques performed as well as the more advanced ensemble gradient boosting. Using the clinical variables identified from simple machine learning in a cirrhosis mortality model produced a new score more transparent than machine learning and more predictive than the MELD-Na score.

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