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05.02.2018 | Original Scientific Report | Ausgabe 9/2018

World Journal of Surgery 9/2018

Data Improvement Through Simplification: Implications for Low-Resource Settings

World Journal of Surgery > Ausgabe 9/2018
Geoffrey A. Anderson, Jordan Bohnen, Richard Spence, Lenka Ilcisin, Karim Ladha, David Chang



The focus of many data collection efforts centers on creation of more granular data. The assumption is that more complex data are better able to predict outcomes. We hypothesized that data are often needlessly complex. We sought to demonstrate this concept by examination of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) scoring system.


First, we created every possible consecutive two, three and four category combinations of the current five category ASA score. This resulted in 14 combinations of simplified ASA. We compared the predictive ability of these simplified scores for postoperative outcomes for 2.3 million patients in the NSQIP database. Individual model performance was assessed by comparing receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curves for each model with the standard ASA.


Two of our 4-category models and one of our 3-category models had ability to predict all outcomes equivalent to standard ASA. These results held for all outcomes and on all subgroups tested. The performance of the three best performing simplified ASA scores were also equivalent to the standard ASA score in the univariate analysis and when included in a multivariate model.


It is assumed that the most granular data and use of the largest number of variables for risk-adjusted predictions will increase accuracy. This complexity is often at the expense of utility. Using the single best predictor in surgical outcomes research, we have shown this is not the case. In this example, we demonstrate that one can simplify ASA into a 3-category variable without losing any ability to predict outcomes.

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