Improving risk prediction in heart failure using machine learning

Eric D. Adler, Adriaan A. Voors, Liviu Klein, Fima Macheret, Oscar O. Braun, Marcus A. Urey, Wenhong Zhu, Iziah Sama, Matevz Tadel, Claudio Campagnari, Barry Greenberg*, Avi Yagil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background Predicting mortality is important in patients with heart failure (HF). However, current strategies for predicting risk are only modestly successful, likely because they are derived from statistical analysis methods that fail to capture prognostic information in large data sets containing multi-dimensional interactions. Methods and results We used a machine learning algorithm to capture correlations between patient characteristics and mortality. A model was built by training a boosted decision tree algorithm to relate a subset of the patient data with a very high or very low mortality risk in a cohort of 5822 hospitalized and ambulatory patients with HF. From this model we derived a risk score that accurately discriminated between low and high-risk of death by identifying eight variables (diastolic blood pressure, creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, haemoglobin, white blood cell count, platelets, albumin, and red blood cell distribution width). This risk score had an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.88 and was predictive across the full spectrum of risk. External validation in two separate HF populations gave AUCs of 0.84 and 0.81, which were superior to those obtained with two available risk scores in these same populations. Conclusions Using machine learning and readily available variables, we generated and validated a mortality risk score in patients with HF that was more accurate than other risk scores to which it was compared. These results support the use of this machine learning approach for the evaluation of patients with HF and in other settings where predicting risk has been challenging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-147
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Heart Failure
Issue number1
Early online date12-Nov-2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Heart failure
  • Outcomes
  • Machine learning

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