Background: Early prediction of the need for invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms can help in the allocation of resources appropriately and improve patient outcomes by appropriately monitoring and treating patients at the greatest risk of respiratory failure. To help with the complexity of deciding whether a patient needs IMV, machine learning algorithms may help bring more prognostic value in a timely and systematic manner. Chest radiographs (CXRs) and electronic medical records (EMRs), typically obtained early in patients admitted with COVID-19, are the keys to deciding whether they need IMV. Objective: We aimed to evaluate the use of a machine learning model to predict the need for intubation within 24 hours by using a combination of CXR and EMR data in an end-to-end automated pipeline. We included historical data from 2481 hospitalizations at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Methods: CXRs were first resized, rescaled, and normalized. Then lungs were segmented from the CXRs by using a U-Net algorithm. After splitting them into a training and a test set, the training set images were augmented. The augmented images were used to train an image classifier to predict the probability of intubation with a prediction window of 24 hours by retraining a pretrained DenseNet model by using transfer learning, 10-fold cross-validation, and grid search. Then, in the final fusion model, we trained a random forest algorithm via 10-fold cross-validation by combining the probability score from the image classifier with 41 longitudinal variables in the EMR. Variables in the EMR included clinical and laboratory data routinely collected in the inpatient setting. The final fusion model gave a prediction likelihood for the need of intubation within 24 hours as well. Results: At a prediction probability threshold of 0.5, the fusion model provided 78.9% (95% CI 59%-96%) sensitivity, 83% (95% CI 76%-89%) specificity, 0.509 (95% CI 0.34-0.67) F1-score, 0.874 (95% CI 0.80-0.94) area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC), and 0.497 (95% CI 0.32-0.65) area under the precision recall curve (AUPRC) on the holdout set. Compared to the image classifier alone, which had an AUROC of 0.577 (95% CI 0.44-0.73) and an AUPRC of 0.206 (95% CI 0.08-0.38), the fusion model showed significant improvement (P<.001). The most important predictor variables were respiratory rate, C-reactive protein, oxygen saturation, and lactate dehydrogenase. The imaging probability score ranked 15th in overall feature importance. Conclusions: We show that, when linked with EMR data, an automated deep learning image classifier improved performance in identifying hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 at risk for intubation. With additional prospective and external validation, such a model may assist risk assessment and optimize clinical decision-making in choosing the best care plan during the critical stages of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere46905
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • COVID-19
  • chest radiograph
  • clinical informatics
  • decision trees
  • electronic health records
  • hybrid model
  • intubation
  • machine learning
  • mechanical ventilation
  • medical imaging


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