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01.12.2019 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 1/2019

Predicting patient-reported outcomes following hip and knee replacement surgery using supervised machine learning

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making > Ausgabe 1/2019
Manuel Huber, Christoph Kurz, Reiner Leidl
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12911-018-0731-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Machine-learning classifiers mostly offer good predictive performance and are increasingly used to support shared decision-making in clinical practice. Focusing on performance and practicability, this study evaluates prediction of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) by eight supervised classifiers including a linear model, following hip and knee replacement surgery.


NHS PRO data (130,945 observations) from April 2015 to April 2017 were used to train and test eight classifiers to predict binary postoperative improvement based on minimal important differences. Area under the receiver operating characteristic, J-statistic and several other metrics were calculated. The dependent outcomes were generic and disease-specific improvement based on the EQ-5D-3L visual analogue scale (VAS) as well as the Oxford Hip and Knee Score (Q score).


The area under the receiver operating characteristic of the best training models was around 0.87 (VAS) and 0.78 (Q score) for hip replacement, while it was around 0.86 (VAS) and 0.70 (Q score) for knee replacement surgery. Extreme gradient boosting, random forests, multistep elastic net and linear model provided the highest overall J-statistics. Based on variable importance, the most important predictors for post-operative outcomes were preoperative VAS, Q score and single Q score dimensions. Sensitivity analysis for hip replacement VAS evaluated the influence of minimal important difference, patient selection criteria as well as additional data years. Together with a small benchmark of the NHS prediction model, robustness of our results was confirmed.


Supervised machine-learning implementations, like extreme gradient boosting, can provide better performance than linear models and should be considered, when high predictive performance is needed. Preoperative VAS, Q score and specific dimensions like limping are the most important predictors for postoperative hip and knee PROMs.
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