Predicting Surgical Complications in Patients Undergoing Elective Adult Spinal Deformity Procedures Using Machine Learning

Jun S. Kim, Varun Arvind, Eric K. Oermann, Deepak Kaji, Will Ranson, Chierika Ukogu, Awais K. Hussain, John Caridi, Samuel K. Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Study Design: Cross-sectional database study. Objective: To train and validate machine learning models to identify risk factors for complications following surgery for adult spinal deformity (ASD). Summary of Background Data: Machine learning models such as logistic regression (LR) and artificial neural networks (ANNs) are valuable tools for analyzing and interpreting large and complex data sets. ANNs have yet to be used for risk factor analysis in orthopedic surgery. Methods: The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS-NSQIP) database was queried for patients who underwent surgery for ASD. This query returned 4,073 patients, which data were used to train and evaluate our models. The predictive variables used included sex, age, ethnicity, diabetes, smoking, steroid use, coagulopathy, functional status, American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) class >3, body mass index (BMI), pulmonary comorbidities, and cardiac comorbidities. The models were used to predict cardiac complications, wound complications, venous thromboembolism (VTE), and mortality. Using ASA class as a benchmark for prediction, area under receiver operating characteristic curves (AUC) was used to determine the accuracy of our machine learning models. Results: The mean age of patients was 59.5 years. Forty-one percent of patients were male whereas 59.0% of patients were female. ANN and LR outperformed ASA scoring in predicting every complication (p<.05). The ANN outperformed LR in predicting cardiac complication, wound complication, and mortality (p<.05). Conclusions: Machine learning algorithms outperform ASA scoring for predicting individual risk prognosis. These algorithms also outperform LR in predicting individual risk for all complications except VTE. With the growing size of medical data, the training of machine learning on these large data sets promises to improve risk prognostication, with the ability of continuously learning making them excellent tools in complex clinical scenarios. Level of Evidence: Level III.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)762-770
Number of pages9
JournalSpine Deformity
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Adult spinal deformity
  • Artificial neural network
  • Logistic regression
  • Machine learning
  • Risk prediction


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