Pediatric severe traumatic brain injury mortality prediction determined with machine learning-based modeling

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Introduction: Severe traumatic brain injury (sTBI) is a leading cause of mortality in children. As clinical prognostication is important in guiding optimal care and decision making, our goal was to create a highly discriminative sTBI outcome prediction model for mortality. Methods: Machine learning and advanced analytics were applied to the patient admission variables obtained from a comprehensive pediatric sTBI database. Demographic and clinical data, head CT imaging abnormalities and blood biochemical data from 196 children and adolescents admitted to a tertiary pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) with sTBI were integrated using feature ranking by way of a forest of randomized decision trees, and a model was generated from a reduced number of admission variables with maximal ability to discriminate outcome. Results: In total, 36 admission variables were analyzed using feature ranking with variable weighting to determine their predictive importance for mortality following sTBI. Reduction analysis utilizing Borata feature selection resulted in a parsimonious six-variable model with a mortality classification accuracy of 82%. The final admission variables that predicted mortality were: partial thromboplastin time (22%); motor Glasgow Coma Scale (21%); serum glucose (16%); fixed pupil(s) (16%); platelet count (13%) and creatinine (12%). Using only these six admission variables, a t-distributed stochastic nearest neighbor embedding algorithm plot demonstrated visual separation of sTBI patients that lived or died, with high mortality predictive ability of this model on the validation dataset (AUC = 0.90) which was confirmed with a conventional area-under-the-curve statistical approach on the total dataset (AUC = 0.91; P < 0.001). Conclusions: Machine learning-based modeling identified the most clinically important prognostic factors resulting in a pragmatic, high performing prognostic tool for pediatric sTBI with excellent discriminative ability to predict mortality risk with 82% classification accuracy (AUC = 0.90). After external multicenter validation, our prognostic model might help to guide treatment decisions, aggressiveness of therapy and prepare family members and caregivers for timely end-of-life discussions and decision making. Level of evidence: III; Prognostic.