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05.08.2019 | Original Article

Use of Machine Learning for Prediction of Patient Risk of Postoperative Complications After Liver, Pancreatic, and Colorectal Surgery

Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery
Katiuscha Merath, J. Madison Hyer, Rittal Mehta, Ayesha Farooq, Fabio Bagante, Kota Sahara, Diamantis I. Tsilimigras, Eliza Beal, Anghela Z. Paredes, Lu Wu, Aslam Ejaz, Timothy M. Pawlik
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Surgical resection is the only potentially curative treatment for patients with colorectal, liver, and pancreatic cancers. Although these procedures are performed with low mortality, rates of complications remain relatively high following hepatopancreatic and colorectal surgery.


The American College of Surgeons (ACS) National Surgical Quality Improvement Program was utilized to identify patients undergoing liver, pancreatic and colorectal surgery from 2014 to 2016. Decision tree models were utilized to predict the occurrence of any complication, as well as specific complications. To assess the variability of the performance of the classification trees, bootstrapping was performed on 50% of the sample.


Algorithms were derived from a total of 15,657 patients who met inclusion criteria. The algorithm had a good predictive ability for the occurrence of any complication, with a C-statistic of 0.74, outperforming the ASA (C-statistic 0.58) and ACS-Surgical Risk Calculator (C-statistic 0.71). The algorithm was able to predict with high accuracy thirteen out of the seventeen complications analyzed. The best performance was in the prediction of stroke (C-statistic 0.98), followed by wound dehiscence, cardiac arrest, and progressive renal failure (all C-statistic 0.96). The algorithm had a good predictive ability for superficial SSI (C-statistic 0.76), organ space SSI (C-statistic 0.76), sepsis (C-statistic 0.79), and bleeding requiring transfusion (C-statistic 0.79).


Machine learning was used to develop an algorithm that accurately predicted patient risk of developing complications following liver, pancreatic, or colorectal surgery. The algorithm had very good predictive ability to predict specific complications and demonstrated superiority over other established methods.

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